WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union voiced its opposition to a bill that would reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is set to expire on January 19, without key reforms. The bill text was released today and may be considered by the House next week.
“We strongly oppose this legislation,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel. “This bill is not reform by any stretch of the imagination. It leaves the door wide open to abusive surveillance practices that allow the government to search the intimate emails, text messages, and other sensitive data of Americans without a warrant of any kind. This could easily permit Section 702 to be used as a tool to improperly target minorities, government critics, and marginalized communities.”
She continued, “Congress should abandon efforts to pass this legislation and reject the false assertion that this type of illegal surveillance power is needed to protect national security. Instead, they should require the government to get a warrant when searching through Section 702 data looking for information of American citizens and residents.”
The bill gives the FBI and other federal agencies wide latitude to search through Section 702 data looking for information about Americans without a warrant, even before an active investigation has been opened. In addition, the bill’s language risks being read as a codification and expansion of certain illegal government practices such as collecting communications that are not to or from a surveillance target, including domestic communications.