President Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his director of National Intelligence Dan Coats sent a letter on September 7 to the leaders of the House and Senate demanding Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) be made permanent.
The act faces a sunset provision later this year. Under Section 702, the government is allowed to circumvent the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and obtain general warrants issued by the secret FISA court. Proceedings before the FISA court are ex parte—in other words, the government is the only party present—and non-adversarial.
According to senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, the federal government relies on “secret legal interpretations” to claim all-encompassing surveillance powers. The secret court permits interception of electronic communications of unidentified targets anywhere in the United States. Moreover, there are no real limits on how the government uses, retains, or disseminates the information that it collects. “This means the government can create huge databases that contain information about U.S. persons obtained without warrants and then search these databases at a later point,” the American Civil Liberties Union notes.
Sessions and Coats argue the law is limited to the collection of “vital information about international terrorists, cyber actors, individuals and entities engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other important foreign intelligence targets located outside the United States.”
In fact, the government has used the law to surveil political activists in the United States, activists that have nothing to do with terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. [READ MORE]
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