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.
On June 11th, Congress passed the Massie-Lofgren admendment to the 2016 Defense Appropriations bill. From Rep. Massie’s press-release:
Under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, Americans’ private data and communications – including emails, photos, and text messages – can be collected by intelligence agencies, provided that data or communication at some point crosses the border of the United States. Given the current fluid nature of electronic communications and data storage, in which corporate and private server farms store Americans’ data all over the world, this loophole could allow intelligence agencies access to a vast swath of communications and data without warrant protection. Intelligence officials have confirmed to Congress that law enforcement agencies actively search the content of this intercepted data without probable cause, and have used evidence gathered to assist in criminal prosecutions. Government agencies have also reportedly coerced individuals and organizations to build encryption “backdoors” into products or services for surveillance purposes, despite industry and cryptologist claims that this process is not technologically feasible without putting the data security of every individual using these services at risk. The Massie-Lofgren Amendment would prohibit funding for activities that exploit these “backdoors.”