(WatchDogReport.org) – The House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in December, part of which pushes back the expiry deadline of the controversial Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), due to run out at the end of the year. The NDAA keeps it in effect until April next year.
The legislation passed into law by 310 votes to 118, including 163 from Democrats and 147 from Republicans. Section 702 allows federal agencies to perform surveillance operations on the communications of foreign nationals, and some critics argue that it permits the government to sidestep Fourth Amendment privacy protections and observe the communications of Americans without a warrant.
When the legislation passed in the Senate, Kentucky’s Senator Rand Paul proposed removing the Section 702 element, but this motion did not pass. Senator Paul has long spoken of the need to reform 702 and now says the opportunity is lapsed.
According to Paul, congressmembers had anticipated using the deadline as an opportunity to change 702 and to reform FISA in order to “better protect Americans’ civil liberties.”
Paul warned that intelligence agencies who intrude into the private lives of Americans will see their power unchallenged.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warns that FISA is not used solely against terrorists or adversaries but provides “warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international communications” and permits federal agents to spy on academics, journalists, and business people.
In May, a court found that the FBI had searched the database more than 278,000 times, including during its investigations into the Capitol Hill riots of January 6. The court found that the feds had misused the database because they could not have reasonably expected to “return foreign intelligence or evidence of crime” as a result of the searches.
The Biden administration nevertheless argued that the legislation should stay in place and asked Congress to extend its expiry deadline.
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