The looming expiration of Section 702, a law enabling government agencies’ ability to collect communication data from targeted foreign entities but has consistently been shown to be used against US citizens, has sparked conflict between groups looking to maintain it and privacy activists who view the law as a circumvention of the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement for searches of American citizens’ communications.
House Speaker Mike Johnson appears to be contemplating the inclusion of a controversial reauthorization of Section 702 into a defense appropriations bill, enabling the controversial warrantless surveillance to continue.
Despite the increased pressure for the curtailing of Section 702’s powers, Johnson may go forward with the measure’s reauthorization via the National Defense Authorization Act.
Johnson’s office has maintained silence on these rumors, failing to respond to requests for comment on the topic and any potential changes proposed by the Intelligence Committee to the Section 702 reauthorization.
Preceding reports suggested this was not the first instance of an attempt to insert an extension of Section 702 into the NDAA. Traditionally, the Judiciary Committee has advocated for reform of government surveillance whilst the Intelligence Committee has favored the security agencies’ use of Section 702. It is expected that the Judiciary Committee will soon reveal their reform proposal for Section 702.
The Intelligence Committee is yet to formally launch its proposed legislation, but an outlining report has already been criticized by civil liberties supporters.
The described “window dressing” proposal by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has been accused of expanding surveillance programs, some of which, such as the Patriot Act’s rolling wiretap program, have already expired.
Voices from Capitol Hill are amplifying concerns regarding the potential bundling of Section 702 within the compelling NDAA bill. The fusion of these legislative elements creates a pass or “reject in full” scenario, prompting resistance amongst Republicans.
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