Controversial Surveillance Law Up for Renewal (Again) in April
Almost lost in recent hubbub over claims that the Swift–Kelce romance is a CIA psyop, the likelihood the leading presidential candidates are mental turnips, and the tussle between the federal government and Texas over border control is the fact that the feds are spying on us and want authorization to continue snooping. Debate last year over renewing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act held Congress and the president to a brief extension before the holidays. That leaves legislators arguing the law’s fate before an April deadline, with none of the controversy over spying and privacy yet settled.
Brief Extension for a Bad Law
“I…thank the Congress for its extension of title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” read a White House statement on President Joe Biden’s December 22 signing of the National Defense Authorization Act. “My Administration looks forward to working with the Congress on the reauthorization of this vital national security authority as soon as possible in the new year. While I am pleased to support the critical objectives of the NDAA, I note that certain provisions of the Act raise concerns.”
“Raise concerns” is putting it mildly. Congress did no more than kick the can on extending sunsetting FISA powers to April 19 because the surveillance authorized by the law is deeply intrusive and worries civil libertarians in the ranks of Democrats and Republicans, in both the legislative and executive branches, and among the public at large. Those “concerns” may, if we’re lucky, torpedo the whole law.
Nominally, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) “enables the Intelligence Community (IC) to collect, analyze, and appropriately share foreign intelligence information about national security threats,” according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But, like so many powers government officials find useful, it’s been applied far beyond its original justification over the years, including to the communications of Americans here at home.
“Foreign” Intelligence Looks Awfully Domestic
Last April and July, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee held hearings to examine “the FBI’s abuses of its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities, discuss the FBI’s failures to implement meaningful reforms to prevent its abuses, and address the broad issue of warrantless mass surveillance on American citizens.”
“The revelation that 702 is used against ‘foreign governments and related entities’ directly impacts Americans’ privacy, as American journalists, businesspeople, students a
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