Despite Bipartisan Outcry, Senate Betrays the Fourth Amendment and Passes Bill to Expand Warrantless Government Surveillance

April 20, 2024 1:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — Late Friday evening, the Senate caved to pressure from U.S. intelligence agencies and passed a bill that reauthorizes and dramatically expands Section 702 of FISA, creating new ways for the government to spy on Americans without a warrant.

“It is profoundly disappointing that Congress passed a bill that gives the government more ways to secretly surveil us — with little power to hold spy agencies accountable,” said Kia Hamadanchy, senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Senators were aware of the threat this surveillance bill posed to our civil liberties and pushed it through anyway, promising they would attempt to address some of the most heinous expansions in the near future. We plan to make sure these promises are kept.”

The “Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act” includes dangerous provisions, such as:

  • Expanding the definition of “electronic communications service providers,” which allows the government to force a wide range of U.S. businesses to give the NSA access to their wifi routers, phones, and other communications equipment.
  • Requiring completely suspicionless searches of Section 702 data for non-U.S. persons seeking permission to enter the country, including visa holders who are longtime residents of the United States and are returning from travel.
  • Weakening the FISA Court’s ability to obtain independent input from experts on civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy when the government secretly seeks permission to conduct novel forms of surveillance.

The Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act reauthorizes Section 702 for two years, through April 2026. The ACLU and its partners will work until then to ensure that Congress is finally able to address the severe and long-standing constitutional problems with this authority.

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