Tags: advocates | warn | fisa | reauthorization | congress

Advocates Warn: FISA Reauthorization Must Not Be Jammed Through

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By    |   Monday, 27 November 2017 11:51 AM

Congress appears to be ready to jam through reauthorization of Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), including the controversial Section 702, and the public must make its voice heard to guarantee their Fourth Amendment rights, two advocates argued in an opinion piece in The Hill on Monday.

FreedomWorks vice president of legislative affairs Jason Pye and Demand Progress counsel Sean Vitka emphasized that to "jam Section 702 reauthorization into an omnibus or to otherwise prevent debate on the floor would not only diminish Americans' privacy, it would diminish our voice."

The authors explained the reasoning behind their argument and its urgency. The current authorization for Section 702 ends on Dec. 31, the first time Congress has faced this reauthorization since Edward Snowden's disclosures about how the National Security Agency conducts mass surveillance.

The authors noted that "civil libertarians have urged Congress to take this reauthorization as an opportunity to implement meaningful reforms to shield innocent Americans from mass surveillance while ensuring that federal intelligence agencies have the tools they need to protect the United States from foreign threats," but warned that some in Congress "seem committed to running roughshod over the Fourth Amendment."

Pye and Vitka said that the main Senate and House proposals should not be passed.

They argued that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has marked up the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, S. 2010, but the bill is worse than existing law, because "it explicitly allows the attorney general to use information collected under Section 702 for domestic crimes that have nothing to do with national security and forbids judicial review of that decision."

They also said that the House Judiciary Committee has marked up the USA Liberty Act, but it "does not sufficiently protect innocent Americans from surveillance." It would allow, for example the FBI "to conduct backdoor searches of electronic communications collected by the NSA for domestic, non-terrorism investigations."

The authors argued, however, that there are viable alternatives if the public is willing to fight for them.

They specifically pointed to the USA RIGHTS Act introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., calling it "by far the strongest reform bill on the table, and all who truly care about their civil liberties should support it."

The authors said the bill would "stop 'backdoor searches' of Americans' information, permanently end 'about' collection, fix disturbing problems faced by defendants against whom the government uses Section 702 information, forbid the knowing collection of entirely domestic communications, and institute other important reforms."

However, Pye and Vitka warned that "with no clear path to the floor for [such a real reform], the chance that Section 702 reauthorization with no or minimal reforms is included in an omnibus has grown significantly."

They insisted, however, that a spending bill is no place for an issue that affects the rights of every American or for substantive debate over the real privacy and security issues facing America and urged the leadership in Congress to give those in both parties the opportunity to offer amendments to reform FISA, many of which have broad bipartisan support.

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Congress appears to be ready to jam through reauthorization of Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), including the controversial Section 702, and the public must make its voice heard to guarantee their Fourth Amendment rights...
advocates, warn, fisa, reauthorization, congress
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2017-51-27
Monday, 27 November 2017 11:51 AM
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