House Renews Enhanced Big Brother Surveillance Law
by Stephen Lendman
Voting 256 – 164, House members renewed Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 – amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FISA) of 1978.
It lets the federal government engage in mass, warrantless surveillance of Americans and others abroad – monitoring their phone calls, text messages, emails, and other electronic communications.
Warrantless information collected can be used to prosecute, convict, sentence and imprison people – even for offenses unrelated to national security, including misdemeanors.
The law is disproportionately used against political activists, human rights supporters, Blacks and Latinos, even journalists.
The measure was last renewed in 2012, set to expire at year end 2017. Trump urged making it permanent. It’s one of numerous US police state laws, measures just societies don’t tolerate.
America features them, privacy concerns of no consequence – nor rule of law principles the way they’re supposed to be observed.
Civil rights groups opposed renewing Section 702. The following letter was written by the signatories below to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence members, saying:
“The undersigned 36 groups write to express their strong opposition to the ‘FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017,’ which is scheduled to be marked up in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on December 1, 2017.”
“The proposed bill is not a reform measure. It does not make ‘key changes to Section 702 and other intelligence authorities to protect Americans’ privacy rights,’ as bill sponsors have suggested.”
“On the contrary, it would expand surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), grant the government more authority under other provisions of FISA, and could be read to codify current unlawful surveillance practices.”
“Indeed, the bill is measurably worse than a short-term straight reauthorization of Section 702 with a sunset.”
“Given this – and the enormous privacy interests at stake – it is astounding that the bill is being rushed through committee and was released less than 48 hours before the scheduled markup.”
“Among other things, we expect that the government will argue that the bill expands existing surveillance authorities under FISA, which would permit targeting of Americans and foreigners, both domestically and internationally.”
“The bill expands the definition of ‘foreign power’ and ‘agent of a foreign power’ to include individuals or entities engaging in an array of cyber related activities.”
“This could be used by the government to justify surveillance of Americans and foreigners for foreign intelligence purposes, even in cases where they are not acting on behalf of a foreign power, are not a member of a terrorist organization, and are not a member of a foreign political organization.”
“Indeed, the broad language of the bill could be interpreted by the government to sweep in individuals only tangentially related to malicious cyber activities.”
“Expanding surveillance under Section 702 by including language suggesting that the government can target ‘a facility, place, premises, or property’ for surveillance is far broader than current practice.”
“The government may argue this gives it the right to spy on entire facilities containing millions of users, even if the vast majority of those users were US persons that the government is prohibited from targeting under Section 702.”
The letter added:
The measure permits warrantless searches of US citizens – forbidden in the 1978 law.
It allows information accessed to be used in criminal cases without probable cause.
It codifies “about” collection instead of halting the practice – information not to or from targeted individuals or group – but about them, including from domestic communications.
To no avail, the signatories below urged House members to reject this outrageous police state law:
Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
Arab American Institute
Brennan Center for Justice
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Media Justice
Color Of Change
The Constitution Project
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Action
Electronic Frontier Foundation
First Amendment Coalition
Free Press Action Fund
Freedom of the Press Foundation
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Government Accountability Project
Government Information Watch
Human Rights Watch
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Council of Churches
National Immigration Project of the NLG
New America’s Open Technology Institute
Project On Government Oversight
Restore The Fourth