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The Warrantless Surveillance Bill Renewal Is Even Broader Than Many Noticed

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, join Reclaim The Net.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA, amended in 2008), as a whole and its Section 702 in particular have been a “gift that keeps on giving” where all manner of controversies are concerned.

In late April, it was time to once again reauthorize this legislation whose privacy safeguards have been routinely bypassed by law enforcement for years, and this did happen, with persistent major points of contention being warrantless access to data belonging to Americans (and respect for their constitutional rights).

The issue this time surfaced in a provision that changed the definition of electronic communications service providers (ECSPs) – in terms of which companies fall under this category, that is, which providers are obligated to give the government access to communications.

As things stand, more US businesses than ever would have to provide access to phones, Wi-Fi routers, and other equipment.

This in April launched a debate in the Senate around the scope of surveillance authorities – opponents were saying it significantly expanded them – yet in the end, they failed to stop the reauthorization (“Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act”).

The question was left open with a “pledge” that it would be revisited down the line, and now reports say that Congress is working to “fix” the problem through the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual intelligence authorization bill.

The promise was originally made by Senator Mark Warner, who heads the committee when he assumed a major role last month in making sure the reauthorization bill passed without incorporating changes to the controversial provision.

The Democrat was now speaking at the RSA security conference when he repeated that promise, saying that work is being done toward fulfilling it, and adding that he is “absolutely committed to getting that fixed.”

However, Warner was rather vague about what the solution might entail, saying only that the committee is “very much in progress” and reassuring his audience that it won’t be difficult to “fix” the problem.

“I don’t think it is a high hurdle” – he said, referring to addressing the secret surveillance expansion in the upcoming intelligence bill.

When the extension bill passed, opponents were warned that the government had gained even more power in this space, while spy agencies would continue to evade accountability.

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