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The Spy Coalition In Congress Rushes Through Plan To Keep The NSA Spying On Americans

Published: December 20, 2017
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Source: Tech Dirt

This is, unfortunately, no surprise at all. It happens every time that a key surveillance provision is set to sunset. Rather than have any real public debate about it, the "surveillance hawks" in Congress refuse to do anything until there are just weeks left until the provision would expire... and then try to ram through a renewal. And, indeed, that's exactly what's happening. While people who are concerned about these surveillance powers have been urging debate on possible reform for basically two years, Congress has mostly ignored all such requests. Instead, they pushed for a very weak "reform" bill... and then did nothing about it for months. And now, they apparently announced just last week a plan to vote on a toothless bill today. No debate, no notice, no discussion. As EFF notes, this bill is bad:

As we wrote, the bill, originally introduced by Chairman Devin Nunes before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, “allows warrantless search of American communications, expands how collected data can be used, and treats constitutional protections as voluntary.”

The bill would  create an easy path for the NSA to restart an invasive type of surveillance (called "about" searches) that the agency voluntarily ended earlier this year because of criticisms from the FISA court. It would also give FBI agents the power to decide whether or not to seek a warrant to read American communications collected under Section 702.

Of course, it's particularly ridiculous that it's Nunes pushing for this broad renewal of Section 702. While he has a very long history of actively misleading the public about what the NSA can actually do, he was also the one who flipped out when he found out that Section 702 was used (legally under the law) to conduct surveillance that swept in the communications of General Mike Flynn's calls with Russians. And yet, here he is, making sure that that power continues, without restrictions, suggesting that maybe (just maybe) his public wailing about the surveillance on Flynn was political theater, rather than legitimate concern.

EFF has set up a page to let you contact your Representative to let them know to vote against the bill. Unfortunately, when surveillance hawks started screaming in Congress about how failing to pass this bill will "harm national security" and "put us at risk of terrorist attacks" or "take away a key NSA tool" many Congress members who aren't knowledgeable about the details will reflexively vote for the bill. Check out the EFF's page and make sure that your elected representative knows that this is a bad bill that wrecks the 4th Amendment rights of Americans and allows for massive domestic surveillance.

In case you want a refresher, a few months back we wrote about an an important report by Marcy Wheeler detailing twelve years of NSA surveillance abuse, much of it done under this 702 program that is set to expire at the end of the year, and which this new bill seeks to renew without any real change. Please read up and let your elected representatives know not to support this bill.

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