Congress just turned America into your worst nightmare surveillance police state
04/29/2024 // Cassie B. // Views

The U.S. has reauthorized and broadened its surveillance of Americans under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s Section 702 in what Senator Ron Wyden described as “one of the most dramatic and terrifying expansions of government surveillance authority in history.” This is a huge development that could have major ramifications for the privacy of every American, and it is not getting nearly as much attention as it deserves.

In what Rep. Zoe Lofgren refers to as “Patriot Act 2.0,” the definition of service providers has been expanded, dramatically raising the government’s power to force businesses around the country to help them carry out surveillance without a warrant. Although Section 702 was originally intended to be used to spy on non-U.S. citizens abroad, it has been used to facilitate warrantless access to Americans’ private emails, text messages and phone calls.

Sen. Wyden was one of the lawmakers who fought hard against a provision that many critics are referring to as “Make Everyone a Spy.” He explained how it works and what it means for Americans: “It allows the government to force any American who installs, maintains or repairs anything that transmits or stores communications to spy on the government’s behalf. That means anyone with access to a server, a wire, a cable box, a wifi router or a phone.

“It would be secret: the Americans receiving the government directives would be bound to silence, and there would be no court oversight,” he added.

In other words, everyone from landlords and delivery personnel to utility providers and cleaning contractors could be forced to spy on people without probable cause, and they wouldn’t be allowed to speak about it.

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The Biden administration didn’t even try to hide its elation over the move, announcing that the president would sign it into law “swiftly.”

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden lamented the fact that so many Americans are completely unaware of what is happening to their freedoms, stating: “America lost something important today, and hardly anyone heard. The headlines of state-aligned media screech and crow about the nefarious designs of your fellow citizens and the necessity of foreign wars without end, but find few words for a crime against the Constitution.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson claims that he no longer opposes the idea of warrantless surveillance under FISA because “confidential briefings” he has been part of in his role as Speaker demonstrated the need for Section 702 for “national security” reasons, but Snowden isn’t buying it.

As someone who has used 702 authorities in the past, Snowden said there is “absolutely nothing in any briefing of any level” that justifies supporting warrantless surveillance.

Could political protesters be targeted?

At a private meeting held late last year about reauthorizing the surveillance program, House Intelligence Chair Mike Turner used a picture of Americans who were protesting the war in Gaza to argue in favor of the surveillance authority, implying that those participating in the protest could have ties with Hamas.

Therefore, it would not be surprising if anti-war and pro-Palestinian protests like those that have been taking over college campuses recently become targets of the newly expanded surveillance powers. In fact, the day after the president signed the reauthorization bill, White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said that the students protesting the genocide in Gaza were “echoing the rhetoric of terrorist organizations.”

A legislative director for a Republican lawmaker told WIRED: "Yes, it’s true, you cannot ‘target’ protesters under 702. But that doesn’t mean the FBI doesn't still have the power to access those emails or listen to their calls if it wants.”

Sources for this article include:

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