A bill introduced today by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., seeks to extend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for another four years but with critical reforms aimed at curbing government surveillance.
The proposed legislation would require government to obtain a warrant to search for communications of people in the United States and alert targets when the information collected under Section 702 is being used against them. It would also require government authorities to report on Section 702 use to set the stage for its use in the future.
“Importantly, it would close the so-called ‘backdoor search loophole' that allows the government to search Section 702 data for information about individuals in the U.S. without a warrant,” American Civil Liberties Union Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani said in a statement, calling the bill a “significant step forward” in protecting the constitutional rights of Americans. “It would also put a stop to the illegal practice of collecting communications that are not to or from a surveillance target.”
On Monday, a group of former national security officials beseeched members of Congress to extend Section 702, which is set to expire at the end of this year, noting in letters to lawmakers and obtained by Reuters, that “it is the most effect mechanism to protect the U.S. from the very large numbers of real threats that use American email and internet services.”
Members of the group, which included former National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Keith Alexander and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, said they could “personally attest” to Section 702's usefulness and claimed that its “strong oversight and controls” protected Americans' civil rights and privacy, a view that differs greatly from those of privacy and rights organizations.
Urging Congress to “quickly enact” the bipartisan bill, Singh contended that the government has abused Section 702, using it for warrantless spying on individuals. “This bill rightly recognizes that no president — Democrat or Republican — should have such power,” she said.