US Takes Action to Stop Iran from Buying Weapons

( – US intelligence officials are arguing for the renewal of a controversial surveillance law that lets spy agencies intercept communications on American soil. Privacy advocates worry that it gives those agencies too much power to listen to US citizens. Now the intelligence community is arguing that the rules have helped it stop Iran from getting more powerful weapons.

At the end of the year, Section 702 of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is due to expire. This section was added to the Act in 2008, and allows the US intelligence community to target surveillance on foreign nationals “reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.” The “reasonably believed” part is what worries people — because a “reasonable belief” doesn’t need a lot of evidence, and there’s a risk that people inside the US and even US citizens could be targeted too. Because of that, a lot of people would be happy to see Section 702 lapse. Intelligence officials aren’t among them though.

Recently, two intelligence officials told journalists that Section 702 has been used to stop Iran from buying more advanced weapons. Iran’s ongoing attempts to build a nuclear weapon are a serious problem, but the situation would get a lot worse if the Tehran regime also had long-range ballistic missiles. So far it has managed to build its own medium-range ballistic missiles, based on older Soviet and North Korean designs. The latest of these, the Shahab-3, can reach more than 1,200 miles, allowing Tehran to threaten Israel. However, Iran wants longer-range missiles too — and US intelligence agencies want to stop them.

The officials say US agencies have used FISA powers, including Section 702, to block Iranian attempts to buy US-made components that can be used in missiles. One of them said, “specific sales were stopped,” meaning without the surveillance powers, Iran would have gotten its hands on dangerous missile parts. Other officials have claimed FISA can be used against drug traffickers and other organized criminals — and they’re determined to hang on to their powers.

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