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Controversy Swirls as Speaker Johnson Sidesteps Key Privacy Reform in Surveillance Law Overhaul

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The US House of Representatives is about to vote on yet another reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and “reform” of one of its most controversial components, Section 702.

Like FISA’s name goes, the target is supposed to be foreign threats; however, the problem is that the act, with its original roots in the post-9/11 era – also infringes on what should be legally guaranteed rights of Americans.

And it’s been 20+ years since 9/11 – so now some prominent conservatives are asking – might the next big terrorist threat actually be coming along with illegal immigrants?

For this, and other reasons, there’s the perpetual talk of “reform” when FISA reauthorization time comes along. But somehow the results of these efforts have been lacking.

Section 702 has allowed for warrantless searches of Americans, contrary to the country’s Constitution, and the new bill now under consideration, Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act (RISAA), is condemned by critics as essentially “reform – with no reform.”

That’s because RISAA still doesn’t mandate that law enforcement agencies must have a warrant to get hold of what’s phrased as “US person query.”

All this is not sitting well with some well-known conservative figures, who are pointing the finger at House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, for this fiasco-in-the-making.

On top of not dealing with the obvious problem of the constitutionality of warrantless searches, the bill further allows both law enforcement and spy agencies to either buy (or continue buying – depending on who asks) personal data, again belonging to Americans (private phone calls, emails, text messages) from third-party data brokers.

Johnson opted to rush RISAA through the House, saying that a separate bill will deal with data broker issues – which may or may not be rejected in the Senate.

That’s a lot of red flags already, but then in steps the CIA to make it just a little bit worse – the agency’s justification for expanding Section 702 is that warrantless searches are now necessary to combat “the fentanyl crisis.”

According to the US press, the CIA describes “intelligence collection allowed under Section 702” as “urgently needed to thwart transnational organized crime groups manufacturing and smuggling the lethally potent synthetic opioid from China to Mexico and into the US.”

How about stopping the actual people who bring it in – opponents of illegal migration might ask, at this point.

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