What is Fisa, and what does it mean for no-warrant spying?

What is Fisa, and what does it mean for no-warrant spying?

Government Surveillance Program

Congress Approves Reauthorization of Government Surveillance Program

Congress spent the past week in a fractious debate over a major government surveillance program that gives US authorities the ability to monitor vast swaths of emails, text messages and phone calls without a warrant. In a vote on Friday, lawmakers ultimately decided to keep that warrantless surveillance intact and passed a two-year reauthorization of the law, known as section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or Fisa.

What is section 702 of Fisa?

Section 702 is a measure added in 2008 to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, first passed in 1978, which allows authorities, including government agencies such as the NSA and FBI, to collect and monitor communications. More specifically, it gives them the authority to surveil the messaging of foreign citizens outside US soil and to do so without requesting a warrant.

Although section 702 was ostensibly intended to be used to monitor foreign terrorist groups and criminal organizations, law enforcement agencies have also used its authority to collect and surveil US citizens’ communications. This is because Americans messaging with people abroad are also liable to have their data accessed, which has led to improper use of the law and allegations from civil liberties groups that it gives authorities a backdoor into warrantless searches.

Why is section 702 so divisive?

Section 702 has opponents on both sides of the political spectrum, with its critics especially concerned over the law’s ability to conduct warrantless searches of American citizens’ communications and law enforcement’s tendency to improperly overreach in its use.

Under section 702, authorities are only supposed to be able to search databases of communications for US citizens if they believe that the query could yield intelligence on malicious foreign actors or proof of a crime. But between 2020 and early 2021, the FBI improperly used section 702 almost 300,000 times in searches that targeted January 6 suspects, racial justice protesters and other American citizens, according to documents from Fisa court. That misuse gave new life to calls for reforming section 702, potentially including requiring authorities to get a warrant from a judge before accessing US citizens’ communications.

What happens to section 702 now?

The reauthorization of Fisa on Friday means that the program and warrantless surveillance will be able to continue for at least another two years. An amendment that would have required authorities to get a warrant for searches of US citizens narrowly did not pass, with a House vote ending in a 212-212 tie that resulted in its failure.

While the law was originally intended to be renewed for five years, Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker of the house, was forced to seek only a two-year reauthorization to mollify far-right GOP members who threatened to quash the bill entirely.

Zurück zum Blog

Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

Bitte beachte, dass Kommentare vor der Veröffentlichung freigegeben werden müssen.