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IPFS News Link • Surveillance

The Never-Ending Federal Surveillance Crime Spree

•, by James Bovard

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorizes the National Security Agency to vacuum up trillions of emails and other data. A bevy of bipartisan members of Congress called for radically curtailing those nullifications of Americans' privacy.

But the effort to put a leash on the federal surveillance failed dismally. Congress voted for a four-month extension of FISA, which will likely be followed in April by a much longer extension. There was a bipartisan congressional conspiracy to entitle the Deep State to continue trampling the Constitution.

In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to outlaw political spying (such as the FBI had committed) on American citizens. FISA created a secret court to oversee federal surveillance of suspected foreign agents within the United States, permitting a much more lenient standard for wiretaps than the Constitution permitted for American citizens.

The FISA court "created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans," the New York Times reported in 2013 after Edward Snowden leaked court decisions. The court rubber-stamped FBI requests that bizarrely claimed that the telephone records of all Americans were "relevant" to a terrorism investigation under the Patriot Act, thereby enabling National Security Administration (NSA) data seizures later denounced by a federal judge as "almost Orwellian." In 2017, a FISA court decision included a 10-page litany of FBI violations, which "ranged from illegally sharing raw intelligence with unauthorized third parties to accessing intercepted attorney-client privileged communications without proper oversight."

FISA Section 702

The latest controversy involved FISA Section 702, first enacted by Congress in 2008. That section authorizes the National Security Agency to surveil targets in foreign nations regardless of how many Americans' privacy is "incidentally" destroyed. The NSA collects vast amounts of information as part of that surveillance and then permits the FBI to sift through its troves. The Electronic Frontier Foundation warned more than a decade ago that Section 702 "created a broad national-security exception to the Constitution that allows all Americans to be spied upon by their government while denying them any viable means of challenging that spying."