On Thursday (Jan 11th) this week, the House will vote to reauthorize the soon to be expired Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. Section 702 is intended to allow US intelligence agencies to spy on foreigners under the supervision of the FISA court. Many people agree that Section 702 has been an important and useful tool in the fight against terrorism. Unfortunately, the law’s implementation has been twisted beyond Congress’s original intent to allow for warrentless collection and searches of Americans’ communications.
There are a number of competing bills to re-authorize Section 702. Most of the bills provide modest reforms that would require a warrant before authorities could search through an American’s communications. The bill scheduled for vote on Thursday is S139, and would actually make things worse. This article provides a good run-down of S139 and why it’s so bad.
Prior to Thursday’s vote on S139, Rep. Amash (Republican from Michigan) will introduce an amendment to replace S139 with the USA Rights Act. The USA Rights Act would allow important foreign surveillance to continue, but would close the backdoor warrentless searches of Americans’ communications. It’s important that Rep. Noem votes yes on Rep Amash’s amendment, and should it fail, that she votes no on S139.
The following are just few articles which demonstrate the need for the reforms that the USA Rights Acts will provide.
- A Washington Post investigation found that 9 of 10 internet accounts captured in Section 702 surveillance did not belong to the target of the surveillance, but that many accounts belonged to Americans.
- Intelligence agencies haven’t been forthcoming with Congress, and have refused to say how many Americans’ communications have been swept up in Section 702 searches.
- The intelligence committees that drafted S139 voted down an amendment that would have prevented warrantless acquisition of communications known to be entirely domestic. That’s quite telling.
- The FBI has defied court orders and broken the rules that are suppose to safeguard Americans’ communications, and then lied about it to Congress.