U.S. Congress Reauthorizes Controversial FISA Surveillance Program Despite Privacy Concerns

U.S. Congress reauthorizes controversial FISA surveillance program despite privacy concerns, highlighting the ongoing tension between national security and civil liberties.

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Mazhar Abbas
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U.S. Congress Reauthorizes Controversial FISA Surveillance Program Despite Privacy Concerns

U.S. Congress Reauthorizes Controversial FISA Surveillance Program Despite Privacy Concerns

The U.S. Congress has reauthorized for two years the controversial Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows U.S. intelligence agencies to gather digital communications of foreigners overseas without a warrant. The decision came despite concerns from privacy advocates about potential intrusions on Americans' privacy.

The reauthorization, officially called the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act, passed the Senate 60-34 and was signed into law by President Joe Biden on the same day. The bill faced a long and challenging road, with divisions over whether the FBI should be restricted from using the program to search for Americans' data.

U.S. officials have said the surveillance tool is vital in disrupting terrorist attacks, cyber intrusions, and foreign espionage. Nearly 60% of the items in the president's daily security brief contain information derived from the data collection under Section 702. However, privacy advocates have raised concerns about potential abuses and the impact on Americans' civil liberties.

Why this matters: The reauthorization of Section 702 highlights the ongoing tension between safeguarding national security and protecting individual privacy rights in the digital age. The debate over the surveillance program's scope and oversight has implications for the balance between government power and civil liberties.

ACLU Criticizes: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the passage of the bill "profoundly disappointing" and stated that it gives the government more ways to secretly surveil citizens with little accountability. The organization plans to work to address the constitutional problems with this authority before the next reauthorization in 2026.

Privacy Reforms: The reauthorization included some reforms to address privacy concerns, such as cutting the reauthorization period from five years to two years and increasing transparency and reporting requirements. However, critics argued that more changes were needed to protect Americans' privacy and prevent potential abuses by intelligence agencies.

Key Takeaways

  • U.S. Congress reauthorized FISA Section 702 for 2 more years, despite privacy concerns.
  • Reauthorization passed Senate 60-34 and was signed into law by President Biden.
  • Officials say the surveillance tool is vital for national security, but privacy advocates raise concerns.
  • Reauthorization included some reforms, but critics argue more changes are needed to protect privacy.
  • ACLU calls the passage "profoundly disappointing" and plans to address constitutional issues.