Congress Set to Vote on Controversial Surveillance Law Reforms Amid FISC Program Extension

PC: JessicaRodriguezRivas
Via Wikimedia Commons

By Julie McCaffrey and Leela Bronner

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite Congress’ suggested changes to the law, the Department of Justice said last week the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) will give the government a new one-year certification to conduct surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  

Section 702 was enacted after 9/11 to monitor foreign terrorists, explains the Brennan Center for Justice

The ACLU, which is urging Congress to not vote to extend the law without time to amend it, writes that Section 702 enables the government to warrantlessly surveil non-U.S citizens abroad for foreign intelligence purposes. 

However, according to the ACLU, it has since become a tool used to domestically surveil US citizens as well, charging FBI agents have used Section 702 databases to conduct millions of invasive searches of Americans’ communications.

Some of the groups targeted by this surveillance have included protesters, racial justice activists, journalists, donors to a congressional campaign and members of Congress, as reported by the ACLU. 

Axios said the FBI improperly used the Section 702 database to search for information regarding a US senator, a state senator, and a state-level judge in 2023. 

Kia Hamadanchy, senior policy counsel at the ACLU, voices her opposition to the FISC’s decision, writing, “To use a secret court to unilaterally extend a mass spying program that has been so flagrantly abused by the government betrays the public’s trust and circumvents the proper role of Congress in this process.”

Hamadanchy continues, “This action means that even if Congress declined to reauthorize the statute, Section 702 surveillance could continue. The House must take the opportunity to vote next week on fundamental reforms that would put an end to the substantial harm that this program has allowed once and for all.”

The ACLU also penned a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries, urging Congress to oppose floor consideration of any legislation that would reauthorize Section 702 without requiring votes on key amendments.

Congress approved a short-term extension of Section 702 in December 2023, reports the ACLU, which ends April 19.

The Brennan Center for Justice writes, “Congress must decide by April 19 whether to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

While four reauthorization bills have been introduced, only half of them would attempt to limit the abuse of Section 702, the Brennan Center continues.

About The Author

Julie is a third year at UC Davis majoring in Communications and Psychology with a minor in Philosophy. She hopes to advocate for women's reproductive rights and make the justice system fairer for sexual assault survivors.

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