WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, the Senate voted to move forward with legislation to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which authorizes an extensive program of government spying on people in the United States without a warrant.
Senators narrowly voted (60-38) to bring the renewal to a full vote, surpassing the 60-vote threshold needed to invoke cloture.
Without this extension Section 702 will expire on Jan. 19. While the intended and supposed targets of Section 702 surveillance are foreign entities, the program allows for dragnet-like monitoring of domestic phone and internet conversations. It permits government to conduct backdoor searches into a massive NSA database containing private information about people in the United States.
Free Press Action Fund Government Relations Manager Sandra Fulton made the following statement:
“Congress is helping to put more weapons in the arsenal of Trump’s hateful campaign against immigrant communities and people of color. Renewing the law to keep the backdoor-search loophole open will allow U.S. intelligence agencies to continue spying on the communications of people in the United States, jeopardizing the privacy rights of everyone and leaving vulnerable communities with even fewer protections from this dangerous administration.
“No government entity should have such oppressive surveillance powers, and this administration has proven to be a unique threat. This unconstitutional legislation would allow the FBI to continue to sift through personal data even when those searches don’t relate to a specific criminal investigation. This is the same FBI that drafted a recently leaked and entirely flawed report suggesting civil rights activists pose some sort of national security threat. Reauthorizing Section 702 without the strong reforms it needs will allow for unchecked spying on people across America.”