Section 702, the controversial aspect of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which allows for mass surveillance of American Citizens, is set to phase out at the end of 2017. Some in congress have introduced measures that would make Section 702, in its current form, permanent law and avoid any reforms which might grant Americans greater privacy protections. Here are 10 reasons why that is an absolutely horrific idea.
1) The Federal Government Is Spying on Americans Without a Warrant
President Obama stated that average Americans had nothing to fear and that they were not being spied on. That, it turns out, was a bold faced lie. The NSA has routinely violated American citizens’ Fourth Amendment protections while collecting data through programs authorized by Section 702.
2) The Government Keeps Your Data for Years
Not only is the government stealing your sensitive and private data they are storing it for years after the initial collection. What makes this especially troubling is who they give it to. The NSA has the authority to give your personal information to both the CIA and the FBI at any time. Of course that would only be worrisome if these organizations had a track record of losing highly sensitive files like this, this, or this.
3) Data Scooped up the NSA Is Used for a Wide Range of Purposes
All the snooping and stealing could be justified if it was just used to stop terrorists, but it’s not. The NSA not only gives your data to intelligence agencies bent on stopping terror attacks, they also distribute it to agencies such as the DEA and the IRS. That’s right, cheating on your taxes, or rolling a joint is just as serious as committing acts of terrorism
4) Domestic Spying Jeopardizes Democracy
No one is safe from surveillance under Section 702. From the average drive-thru worker to billionaire real estate moguls/presidential candidates everyone is equally vulnerable. During the last election members of the Obama administration purposefully listened in on communications coming from Trump Tower. Using the surveillance apparatus to spy on political opponents sets a dangerous precedent and could lead to serious dangers to the American electoral system if left unchecked.
5) Existing Limits on Spying Are Not Sufficient
Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have a wide range of ways to abuse the authority granted to them by Section 702. Under the current wording of the law, agencies could help assist in tracking down criminals of even minor crimes. Almost unbelievably, the NSA and other agencies can use Section 702 to snoop on Americans accused on absolutely no wrongdoing.
6) Intelligence Agencies Will not Restrict Themselves
The NSA has recently said it will cease some of the more heinous programs it has practiced under Section 702, but that doesn’t mean anything. Not only did the NSA operate these programs secretly until Edward Snowden famously revealed them, but their self imposed “restrictions” don’t amount to any real protections. Top Democrats, however, have hailed the spy agencies word craft as major reforms, which speaks volumes on their commitment to real privacy protections.
7) Real Reforms Won’t Hinder Law Enforcement
Making serious changes to section 702 will not degrade the efficacy of law enforcement agencies to investigate terrorism. If anything they will make investigations more efficient because intelligence agencies will be forced to focus on actual threats. More importantly…
8) Current Practices Don’t Stop Attacks
Even with the massive number of tools to spy on virtually any potential terrorist suspects intelligence agencies have been unable to stop terrorist attacks in America. Both the Boston Bombers and the Orlando shooter were both on government watch lists, and had interacted with law enforcement, but were not stopped before they carried out their attacks. More frustrating is the fact that even with the huge surveillance infrastructure in place intelligence agencies were unable to identify, much less stop, the attack on San Bernardino. The current use of Section 702 does not stop terrorism period.
9) Reform Is Not a Partisan Issue
Stopping the NSA and other agencies from running amok with Section 702 is not a left versus right issue. Advocacy groups from both sides of the isle are coming together form a broad coalition demanding serious changes to the law. Defending Americans from unconstitutional spying is not a Republican versus Democrat battle, it is a government versus the people battle.
10) This Is America’s One Shot at Reform
Section 702 includes a sunset provision that allows for it to expire at the end of 2017. Removing the section from FISA would force the government to cease domestic spying in its current form once and for all. One senator is on a crusade to make sure that doesn’t happen. Senator Tom Cotton has introduced legislation that would codify Section 702, in its current form, permanently. If his bill passes Americans will never have another chance to disrupt the surveillance state. Reform needs to happen and it needs to happen right now.
You can take action by sending a message to Congress demanding they protect your digital privacy by ratifying a Digital Bill of Rights. Don’t let this opportunity to stop domestic spying slip by. Join the fight and take action now.