Congress May Strip Feds of Controversial Spying Power

Congress May Strip Feds of Controversial Spying Power

( – Top intelligence gathering agencies in the United States collect data from various governments, on foreigners, and about potential threats to the American way of life. Many use Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to gather large swaths of data on their targets. This statute, which went into effect in 2008, allows intelligence officials to collect the communications, such as texts and emails, of specific foreign targets. The controversy stems when these communications include those of Americans on domestic soil — without a warrant.

Section 702 is set to expire at the end of 2023 unless Congress chooses to renew or reform it. Conservatives fighting for privacy are hoping for reforms to protect Americans’ emails, texts, and other private messages that they believe the government should not be allowed to access without a warrant. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is passionate about ensuring agencies like the FBI cannot spy on Americans in this way, especially as the agencies face allegations of politicization.

Across the aisle, former Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) is also asking current lawmakers to tighten up the accountability and compliance of Section 702 to ensure Americans are not targeted by the statute. However, experts and officials in charge of national security argue that Section 702 allows them to gather intel quickly on potential foreign threats. Having to jump through more hoops in order to do so could delay intelligence gathering and would require more time and resources.

In 2021, the federal government used Section 702 to target 232,432 people, according to an April 2022 report from the Director of National Intelligence. Recently declassified reports have shown the FBI has unlawfully combed through FISA data such as this in an attempt to find connections to US lawmakers. These are not small numbers, especially when the government has admitted data like this has been abused already.

National security is central to a strong America, as thwarting foreign threats before they make it to our shores keeps terrorism at bay. Without some sort of foreign surveillance ability, this process would be slowed down greatly. However, protecting citizens’ rights to privacy is also essential, as a government overstepping its place can quickly turn into a menace. Balancing these two needs is quite difficult, but it’s something lawmakers must figure out as they rethink Section 702 of FISA in the coming months.

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