Aspects of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), including the notorious Section 702 responsible for some of the largest NSA mass surveillance programs on the Internet come up for expiration this year. This was expected to be the subject of considerable debate, as previous NSA-related bills have faced intense scrutiny, and efforts to offer watered-down reforms to keep them on the books.
The Trump Administration very much likes the part where surveillance law stays on the books, but not so much the idea of the reforms, even watered-down ones, and is demanding a “clean reauthorization” of the law exactly as it is currently written in the name of national security.
FISA is intended to authorize mass surveillance against foreigners, but the NSA surveillance programs created under the auspices of the secret FISA court have ended up sweeping up the Internet and cellphone traffic of materially all American citizens as well.
That the multiple restrictions in Section 702 on surveilling American citizens had literally no impact on the government surveilling every one of those citizens has led to some bipartisan agreement that at least some change to the wording is necessary to clarify what the law was intended to do.
The problem with that is, the current law’s ability to be deliberately flouted fits very well into a lot of US spymasters, and the Trump White House has clearly embraced this position as well, intending to continue the executive branch’s long-standing abuse of the FISA provisions to carry out unprecedented, worldwide surveillance.
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