We have work to do. A new bill before the U.S. House of Representatives does too little to protect Americans from having their communications searched by government agents. With your help, we can make it clear that American communications need to be protected from warrantless search.
One of the government’s most powerful surveillance tools is set to expire at the end of this year. That tool, called Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, targets for collection the communications of foreign individuals outside of the United States. But Section 702 surveillance also collects the communications of countless Americans. Those American communications are then stored in a database that government agents search through without applying for a warrant. These are often called “backdoor searches,” because they evade the warrant requirement that is supposed to protect Americans’ communications.
Introduced to the House this month by Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and others, the USA Liberty Act seeks to reauthorize Section 702 past its planned expiration date. The legislation asks for new restrictions on backdoor searches, but those restrictions don’t go far enough to protect American communications. Read EFF’s analysis of the bill here.
The NSA collects emails, browsing, and chat history under Section 702 of FISA, and searches this information without a warrant for the communications of Americans. Law enforcement agencies—including the FBI—and intelligence community agencies—including the CIA—can perform “backdoor searches” through this same database.
The USA Liberty Act adds important restrictions to “backdoor searches” under Section 702. It requires government agents to apply for a warrant to search through 702-collected data when they are seeking evidence of a crime. However, the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect American’s privacy.
The USA Liberty does not require government agents to apply for a warrant when searching through 702-collected data for investigations related to foreign intelligence.
Law enforcement agents will not need to apply for a warrant when doing early searches on whether a crime was committed at all. The warrant restriction won’t apply to the NSA or CIA at all.
If you understand what the backdoors above mean for the future of freedom and privacy, it is your responsibility to pick up the phone and call.
These are your communications and freedoms at stake.
USA Liberty may be the most viable bill for 702 reauthorization. It has drawn attention from several civil liberties and digital rights groups, but Congress needs to hear from you, the people, too. Revisions will be made, and those revisions could happen very soon. Now is the time to call and be counted.
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