Make the Call: Tell Congress to Keep Warrantless Mass Surveillance out of the Budget
Remember that terrible surveillance authority that allows the Trump administration to spy on people in the U.S. without a warrant? It's set to sunset at the end of this year, but Congress might try to sneak the law's reauthorization into a must-pass budget bill to avoid a public debate. And we need to stop it.
To jog your memory: Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the government to monitor the communications of people in the United States without a warrant. While the targets of Section 702 surveillance are supposedly foreign entities, the program allows for dragnet-like monitoring of phone and internet conversations of “United States persons.”1
This is a clear violation of our right to privacy.
Ordinarily if law enforcement wants to access the communications of U.S. persons, it must first get approval from a judge. But under 702, law enforcement can bypass that safeguard and search information the NSA collects without a warrant.
Privacy advocates call this the “backdoor-search loophole” and Congress needs to fix it before any reauthorization moves forward.
This authority is a real threat, especially given recent reports of the FBI’s efforts to classify people protesting police violence as “Black Identity Extremists.”2 Under this classification, the FBI is grouping Black political activists into the same category as dangerous domestic terrorist organizations that pose actual threats to law enforcement.
The Bureau is doing this so it will be able to more easily carry out warrantless surveillance and harassment of Black activists — a chilling reminder of the FBI’s targeting of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil-rights activists under the COINTELPRO program in the 1950s and ’60s.
Section 702 is set to expire at the end of 2017 and absolutely should. At the very least Congress should debate this law’s potential merits and harms before the American public.
Reauthorizing 702 without reforming it would fundamentally weaken our Fourth Amendment right to privacy.
It’s no surprise that the Trump administration wants Congress to reauthorize the program. If this happens, the president and the FBI will have incredible power to use advanced surveillance tools to target communities of color and other activists.
Tell Congress: Don’t let Trump spy on us. Rein in warrantless mass surveillance.
1. “Q&A: U.S. Warrantless Surveillance Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Human Rights Watch, Sept. 14, 2017: https://act.freepress.net/go/17357?t=9&akid=6935%2ENone%2EkvLAH7
2. “Trump Wants to Keep Our Draconian Surveillance Laws. Don’t Let Him Do It,” The Guardian, Nov. 3, 2017: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/03/trump-draconian-surveillance-laws-prism-snowden