Congress May Strip Feds Of Controversial Spying Power 

( The “crown jewel” of the United States’ intelligence agencies may be on the chopping block if a program isn’t renewed or continued past its expiration date later this year. 

The surveillance program is covered under Section 702 of the FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but is set to expire at the end of this year unless Congress decides that it wants to reauthorize the program. 

The federal government has long argued that this law allows U.S. intelligence agencies to gather information contained in communications of certain foreigners. Under the law, the National Security Agency has the ability to order email providers such as Gmail – owned by Google – to provide them with copies of various messages that were sent on their platform. 

It also gives the NSA the ability to force telecom operators such as Verizon or AT&T to intercept internet communications, text messages and phone calls that their customers send to, or receive from, foreign targets and then turn them over to the government agency. 

The major problem with this is that these actions could lead to millions of Americans’ information being collected in bulk on an incidental basis – and then sent to federal government agencies for surveillance purposes. 

Many civil libertarians have repeatedly warned that the federal government interprets FISA’s Section 702 that it allows intelligence agencies in the search for and collect private communications from Americans without receiving an official order from a court. 

All of the raw bulk data that the government collects as part of Section 702 is then stored in one central database that American intelligence agencies then have the ability to search through. They can use the passport numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, names and many other information that’s personally identifiable to surveil these U.S. residents.  

The fact that a debate about the reauthorization of Section 702 looms at the end of this year means that there is a real opportunity for people and groups from all sides of the political aisle to push their ideas for surveillance reform. 

Recently, a spokesperson for Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana commented to Breitbart News: 

“Given the FISA Court’s infringement on the liberty of private law-abiding citizens, Senator Daines believes Section 702 is in need of significant reform and will evaluate legislation that comes before Congress to ensure it doesn’t violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.” 

Last fall, Republican Jim Jordan, who’s now the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said to Fox News: 

“I think we should not even reauthorize FISA, which is going to come in the next Congress.” 

That’s not a surprising take that Jordan had, since most members of the Judiciary Committee in the House are typically in favor of reforms on surveillance measures. 

On the flip side of that argument is Republican Representative Darin LaHood, a member of the chambers’ Intelligence Committee, a panel that will typically support the powers of surveillance. 

He is currently leading a working group that’s looking to reauthorize Section 702, though he said the “possibility of reforms” are part of ongoing negotiations that are sure to take place between the Judiciary and Intelligence committees.