Although writing to the Trumpian Congress is a pyrrhic pursuit at best, 22 civil rights groups wrote to the House Judiciary Committee in pursuit of reforms to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The groups wrote: “Section 702 is a warrantless surveillance authority that allows monitoring of non-US persons abroad for broad foreign intelligence purposes, including these individuals’ communications with individuals in the United
States. This powerful tool—subject to far fewer checks than domestic surveillance—was passed to combat threats from hostile foreign powers and international terrorism, and was not intended for domestic law enforcement investigation of U.S. persons for matters unrelated to foreign intelligence.”
“Despite its stated purpose, the government interprets Section 702 to permit the FBI to deliberately seek out— without a warrant—communications of U.S. persons, a problem commonly called the “backdoor search loophole.” The sole restriction for FBI search queries is that they be for “foreign intelligence” or “law enforcement purposes.” No suspicion of wrongdoing is required. According to former Privacy and Civil Liberties Board Chair David Medine, even when “the FBI has absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing . . . they’re just sort of entitled to ‘poke around’” in communications obtained via Section 702.2 This low standard circumvents Fourth Amendment requirements, and further raises concerns that there are inadequate protections to prevent Section 702 information from being used to improperly target communities of color, religious minorities, and activists.”
The letter has two asks: 1) to require a judicial warrant for US person asks to close the backdoor search loophole and 2) codification of the serious nature of the relevant law enforcement concerns to prevent sweeping and overbroad collection.
Read the whole letter here.