Con­tentious sur­veil­lance pro­gram likely to con­tinue

The Signal - - USA TODAY - Erin Kelly

WASH­ING­TON – The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives voted Thursday to re­new a con­tro­ver­sial sur­veil­lance pro­gram.

The Se­nate is likely to vote on the bill next week be­fore the pro­gram ex­pires Jan. 19. The pres­i­dent sup­ports the House ac­tion, ac­cord­ing to the White House.

The pro­gram is known as Sec­tion 702 of the For­eign Sur­veil­lance In­tel­li­gence Act. The Sec­tion 702 pro­gram was ap­proved by Congress in 2008 to in­crease the gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to track and thwart for­eign ter­ror­ists in the wake of the 9/11 at­tacks.

Q: What is the Sec­tion 702 pro­gram de­signed to do?

A: The law gives U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies the power to spy on the elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion and phone calls of for­eign­ers re­sid­ing out­side the USA to try to gather in­for­ma­tion about any ter­ror­ist plots or ac­tiv­i­ties.

Q: What’s wrong with that?

A: The prob­lem, ac­cord­ing to pri­vacy ad­vo­cates and civil lib­er­ties groups, is that the emails, pho­tos, texts and other elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion of U.S. cit­i­zens and le­gal U.S. res­i­dents are col­lected while our gov­ern­ment spies on for­eign­ers.

That could hap­pen if a cit­i­zen com­mu­ni­cated with a for­eigner who was un­der sur­veil­lance, even if that for­eigner wasn’t sus­pected of be­ing a ter­ror­ist. It could hap­pen if two Amer­i­cans com­mu­ni­cated with one an­other and men­tioned the name of a for­eigner un­der sur­veil­lance.

Un­der the Fourth Amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, Amer­i­cans are pro­tected from un­rea­son­able searches and seizures. Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials typ­i­cally have to go to court and ask a judge for a search war­rant. They must show prob­a­ble cause to be­lieve that ev­i­dence of a crime will be found.

Q: Isn’t it im­pos­si­ble for U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies to spy on for­eign­ers with­out scoop­ing up some Amer­i­can data in the process?

A: Yes, it’s un­re­al­is­tic to think they won’t see any mes­sages from Amer­i­cans who com­mu­ni­cate with for­eign na­tion­als. The prob­lem, crit­ics say, is not that the in­for­ma­tion is col­lected but what is done with it after it is gath­ered.

The in­for­ma­tion be­comes part of a data­base that the FBI or other fed­eral law en­force­ment agen­cies could search to find ev­i­dence that Amer­i­cans are en­gaged in do­mes­tic crimes that have noth­ing to do with ter­ror­ism. For ex­am­ple, it could be used to find ev­i­dence that an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen didn’t pay his or her taxes or com­mit­ted a mi­nor drug of­fense, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and other groups.

Q: How do I know if my emails or texts have been col­lected or searched un­der this law?

A: There’s no way to know un­less you are charged with a crime and pros­e­cu­tors dis­close that they have ev­i­dence ob­tained through Sec­tion 702. Congress mem­bers have re­peat­edly asked in­tel­li­gence agen­cies to re­veal how many Amer­i­cans have had their data col­lected un­der the pro­gram, but the agen­cies haven’t pro­vided an an­swer.

Q: What hap­pens next?

A: The Se­nate is likely to pass the bill and send it to Trump, who will prob­a­bly sign it.


U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies col­lect Amer­i­can data in the course of mon­i­tor­ing for­eign­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.