FISA 702 Reauthorization without Reforms is a Grave Threat to the Civil Liberties of All Americans
WASHINGTON – Open the Government strenuously opposes straight reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and views it as a direct assault on Americans’ Fourth Amendment protections and privacy rights. Worse, reauthorization without reform would enshrine and could expand dangerous spy programs that threaten to undermine constitutional protections.
“If Section 702 is reauthorized without meaningful amendments, the United States will have taken a big step towards becoming a permanent surveillance state,” said Open the Government Executive Director Lisa Rosenberg. “We urge Congress to take a deep breath and consider the significant ramifications, potential mischief, and threat to the Constitution caused by blindly reauthorizing Section 702.”
While privacy and civil liberties defenders were able to stave off efforts to extend and expand Section 702 in December, now Congress has until January 19 before the law expires. This week the House plans to introduce a bill that passed by the Intelligence Committee, which would continue and expand the worst parts of the spy authority.
Under Section 702, the National Security Agency collects vast amounts of internet and telephone communications of non-Americans. However, in the process they also sweep up huge amounts of data about Americans by capturing phone calls, email exchanges, text messages, and social media postings. The government continues to shield information on the impact of Section 702 spying, including any estimate of the number of Americans swept up in the surveillance programs authorized under the law.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has broad access to search the 702 database without a warrant and to access information on Americans that can be shared with domestic law enforcement and used to prosecute defendants in criminal cases. The domestic agencies then use a technique known as “parallel construction” to conceal where they originally obtained the information. This means they avoid disclosing to defendants the fact that information from a warrantless surveillance program was used during a criminal investigation, creating the very type of arbitrary search that the Fourth Amendment is meant to protect against.
Many organizations in the OTG coalition are working tirelessly to push for reforms to Section 702 to ensure transparency and accountability for this expansive government surveillance authority. For more from OTG and our partners, see:
Open the Government is an inclusive, nonpartisan coalition that works to strengthen our democracy and empower the public by advancing policies that create a more open, accountable, and responsive government.