Home Tech The next president of the United States will have disturbing new surveillance powers

The next president of the United States will have disturbing new surveillance powers

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The next president of the United States will have disturbing new surveillance powers

The United States’ ability to intercept and store text messages, calls and emails from Americans seeking foreign intelligence was not only expanded but enhanced over the weekend in ways that will likely remain enigmatic to the public for years. coming.

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden signed a controversial bill that extends the life of a US warrantless surveillance program by two years, ending a months-long fight in Congress over an authority that US intelligence agencies acknowledge that it has been widely abused in the past. .

At the urging of the agencies and with the help of powerful bipartisan allies on Capitol Hill, the program has also expanded to cover a wide range of new businessesincluding U.S. data centers, according to a recent analysis by legal experts and civil liberties organizations that openly opposed its approval.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, allows the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), among other agencies, to spy on calls, text messages and emails that travel through American networks, as long as one side of the communication is strange.

Americans caught up in the program face diminished privacy rights.

While the government requires a foreign target to initiate a wiretap, Americans are often part of those intercepted conversations. And while U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland insisted in a statement Saturday that updates to the 702 program “ensure the protection of Americans’ privacy and civil liberties” and that the government never intentionally targets Americans , however, reserves the right to store your communications and access them later without probable cause.

“Section 702 is supposed to be used only to spy on foreigners abroad,” says Dick Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Instead, unfortunately, it has allowed warrantless access to vast databases of Americans’ private phone calls, text messages, and emails.”

Under the law, the government can retain communications captured by the 702 program for half a decade or more, indefinitely, as long as the government makes no effort to decrypt them.

A trade organization representing some of the world’s largest technology companies came out against plans to expand Section 702 in the final hours of the debate, arguing that a new provision drafted by members of the House Intelligence Committee Representatives would harm the competitiveness of American technologies, “possibly jeopardizing the continued free global flow of data between the United States and its allies.”

US intelligence obtains its vast surveillance power through annual certifications granted by a secret court. The certifications allow the NSA in particular to compel companies in the United States (categorized as “electronic communications service providers” or ECSP) to cooperate with the program, collecting data and installing wiretaps on behalf of the agency.

Years ago, the government sought to unilaterally expand the definition of ECSP under the law, seeking to force the cooperation of entirely new categories of companies. That effort was rejected by the FISA court in 2022, in a ruling that declared that only Congress has the “constitutional competence and authority” to rewrite the law.

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