From The Guardian
The spying provision that allows warrantless access to our emails is being debated in Congress. We must all urge our representatives to oppose it
Lost amid the constant headlines about hearings on social media companies and Russia, is that Congress is having the most important debate on privacy rights in years.
While it's an uphill battle, if enough pressure is put on representatives in the coming months, there is a real chance some of the most controversial NSA surveillance powers exposed by Edward Snowden could be substantially restricted.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- the controversial spying provision that allows the NSA to spy on hundreds of thousands of foreign individuals and warrantless access to Americans' emails -- expires at the end of the year. The Trump administration and intelligence agencies are lobbying for the law to be permanently reauthorized, but a bipartisan coalition of congressmen are pushing for important reforms.
Section 702 is the law that's behind the Prism program first revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. At its essence, the law authorizes two types of broad spying powers: "downstream" surveillance, where the secret FISA court approves surveillance orders on broad categories of people overseas who may be talking to Americans, which the NSA can access at a lower standard than a traditional probable cause warrant. And "upstream surveillance," where the government uses its covert access to internet backbone and scans large amounts of email and web traffic that goes into and out of the United States.
How many Americans are affected by the law? We literally have no idea -- because the government refuses to disclose it. But we do know it's likely unconstitutional. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have been challenging the constitutionality of the law for years, but so far the government has thrown up so many procedural and catch-22 secrecy hurdles, there's never been a definitive ruling on the law.
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Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and lawyer who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He has contributed to The (more...)