This year, a key U.S. national security law is set to expire. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has many moving parts, but the gist is that it allows the government to collect the communications of foreigners who are abroad, to gain foreign intelligence information, including when those people communicate with Americans inside the United States. And it can do that without a warrant.
In practice, this means that intelligence agencies can order email services, like Google and Yahoo, to hand over copies of the messages of targeted foreigners to intercept the phone calls, texts, and internet communications to or from a foreign target.
In the past, reauthorization by Congress was pretty much routine, and some new modifications and procedural safeguards have been added over the years. But this year could be different. A series of recent government reports and court opinions have shown extensive use of Section 702 as a domestic surveillance tool by the FBI. There have been numerous incidents of FBI agents pushing, and sometimes breaking, legal limits on accessing the data of Americans that is “incidentally” collected as part of a Section 702 search. Politics are also at play. Some members of Congress, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, have said they oppose reauthorization.
To understand how the Biden administration is thinking about the Section 702 reauthorization, Just Security’s Co-Editor-in-Chief Tess Bridgeman sat down with Chris Fonzone and Josh Geltzer. Chris is the General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Josh is Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor at the National Security Council.
Listen to the podcast by clicking below.