Washington, D.C. | www.adc.org | October 27, 2017 | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is calling on Congress to reform Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and pass the USA Rights Act. The USA Rights Act was introduced into Congress by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY), and in the House by Reps. Zoe Lofgren, (D-CA), Ted Poe, (R-TX) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX).
The USA Rights Act will take significant steps to end indiscriminate data collection, end warrantless searches of NSA data by the FBI, and clearly define and limit the reasons for which the NSA may pursue surveillance, and increase transparency and accountability. The bill’s major reform is closing the ‘backdoor loophole’ by which the FBI and local law enforcement can search communications of Americans connected with foreign targets without a warrant — essentially using foreign intelligence for domestic investigations.
Currently, NSA has broad license to collect data on particularly any foreign person and the Americans who may be swept up in that surveillance orbit. The NSA need only claim a “reasonably believed” assumption that the suspect is a foreigner to tag an individual’s communication for surveillance (the NSA has admitted that 51% confidence is enough). According to a 2014 investigative report by the Washington Post, nine of out ten intercepted communications were not targeted by the NSA but swept up in the agency’s “upstream” dragnet. And nearly half of those included the names, email addresses and other private information of U.S. individuals.
Under the USA Liberty Act, HR 3989 – an alternative compromise legislation to the most robust reforms offered in the USA Rights Act – Section 702 would remain too permissive of unchecked government surveillance with too few safeguards protecting the civil liberties of American citizens. The FBI would still be allowed to search data without a warrant, the NSA would still be free to define at will “foreign intelligence,” and other shortfalls in Section 702 remain intact like lax whistleblower protections. Whistleblowers play an invaluable role in a free society ensuring government accountability and transparency. Take the case of Arab-American FBI Special Agent Bassem Youssef who blew the whistle on the agency’s discriminatory practices that were undermining its counterterrorism efforts.
Section 702 is set to expire at the end of December, together we can make sure that the voices of impacted communities are heard calling for substantive reform. No more spying powers for Trump!