Congress Moves To Stop Government From Getting More Power To Spy on People

Congress Moves To Stop Government From Getting More Power To Spy on People

( – In 2008, Congress updated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), expanding the measure to include several new provisions. The addition of Section 702 authorized the warrantless surveillance of foreign nationals’ phone calls, text messages, emails, and other digital communications. Lawmakers must renew FISA annually, but this year there’s a bipartisan push to modify the law to prevent the government from spying on Americans who get caught up in the government’s effort to intercept communications overseas.

The Biden administration anticipated a lengthy battle with lawmakers and formally launched its efforts to renew the FISA at the end of February. In previous years, it waited until September, making it challenging to pass the act by the annual December 31 deadline.

On February 28, POLITICO published an in-depth article detailing bipartisan congressional pushback against the blanket renewal of the act without modifications. For instance, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the head of the House Judiciary Committee, said he wouldn’t support extending the act’s authority for another year without modifications. He believes government officials “should have to get a warrant” to spy on people.

Likewise, Representatives Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) have expressed concerns over details contained in a recently declassified report on the use of § 702 for six months beginning in December 2019. For example, one of the document’s footnotes revealed that an FBI analyst queried intercepted communications databases using the name of an unnamed US lawmaker.

Of particular concern, Federal prosecutors can use any data retrieved under § 702 of the FISA Amendments Act to charge, convict, and imprison individuals, even for crimes not involving national security.

Groups like the ACLU have pushed back against § 702 since its inception, arguing that government officials could use its authority to target specific groups, political activists, and journalists.

Considering the government ordered more than 230,000 data searches in 2021, there’s a high probability Americans could end up having their communications intercepted.

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