The Disturbing Clause not Covered by Proposed NSA Reform

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The U.S. House of Representatives has before it two bills that are supposed to put some safeguards on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) spying activities on Americans. But neither plan includes reforms for a controversial section of federal law on which many of the NSA’s most intruding programs are legally based.


The provision in question is part of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act, specifically Section 702.


According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), “Section 702 has been used by the NSA to justify mass collection of phone calls and emails by collecting huge quantities of data directly from the physical infrastructure of communications providers.”


Furthermore, 702 allows the government to capture the content of electronic communications, such as emails, text messages and social media postings.


The two House bills focus only on phone records—and not the NSA’s lawful authority to store what Americans are actually saying in their communications.


If either of these measures becomes law, the NSA will still be able to use 702 to access

communications without a warrant through what’s known as the “back door search loophole.” Former NSA director General Keith Alexander has admitted that the NSA utilizes “U.S. person identifiers” to go through data collected under Section 702.


Section 702 also has allowed the agency to vacuum up huge volumes of Internet traffic directly from companies such as Facebook and Google.


Attempts have been made to rein in some of Section 702’s powers, principally by Representative Zoe Lofgren, D-California, but her amendments have been voted down.

And the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which approves NSA spying, does little to review Section 702 information collections. The FISC is limited to “procedures for targeting and minimization rather than the actual seizure and searches,” according to EFF. “This lack of judicial oversight is far beyond the parameters of criminal justice.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The Way the NSA Uses Section 702 is Deeply Troubling. Here’s Why. (by Nadia Kayyali, Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Electronic Frontier Foundation) (pdf)

Declassified Document Confirms Obama Administration Lied about Internet Surveillance Program (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Sen. Wyden Warns American Citizens against Surveillance State (AllGov)


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