Democrats and Republicans Agree to Expand Spying on People Around the World

On Saturday, April 20th, President Biden rushed to sign a two-year renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The renewal of the law made Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer note, “Democrats and Republicans came together and did the right thing for our country’s safety.” 

FISA allows the federal government and its intelligence agencies to spy on, collect, and monitor the data, phone calls, text messages, and emails of foreign nationals outside of the United States without a warrant. The law was originally passed in 1978, but its most controversial amendment came in 2008 with the addition of Section 702 that allows U.S. intelligence agencies to collect and monitor electronic communications. It also allows those agencies to coerce tech giants like Google and AT&T to hand over information. The amendment was passed during the United States’ so-called War on Terror, claiming it would help prevent and stop terrorism in the U.S. and abroad. Since 2008, the law has been continually abused by the NSA, CIA, and FBI in order to spy on U.S. citizens. 

Because the law allows these agencies to spy on foreign citizens without a warrant and many U.S. citizens communicate with people abroad, it gives these agencies a backdoor into the cell phones, internet history, and data of any U.S. citizen. Apparently, from 2020 to 2021, the FBI used Section 702 improperly almost 300,000 times against people like Black Lives Matter protestors, January 6th rioters, and journalists, among others. In fact, it was found the FBI did inquires on 3.4 million Americans in 2021 alone. The chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner, noted that the law could be used to spy on U.S. citizens who oppose the genocide in Gaza.

Although the law has been renewed, a few amendments and alterations have been made, including shortening the renewal period to two years. But it also includes an amendment by Representatives Mike Turner and Jim Himes that extends the definition of electronic communications service providers to include any provider “who has access to equipment that is being or may be used to transmit or store wire or electronic communications.” This amendment would extend these agencies’ ability to force businesses like coffee shops, landlords, or any business or place on whose network a targeted electronic device was used to hand over their data. This will expand the network of businesses and organizations who will be forced to help the government spy on people at home and abroad.

This law and the Turner-Himes amendment is a clear violation of U.S. citizens’ 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant but it’s important to see this issue goes beyond U.S. citizens. This law allows the United States government to spy on any person around the world and access all of their private information by claiming this is to protect the world. This is a flat-out lie. The United States government and the wealthy ruling elite it represents have no interest in protecting anyone but themselves. They want to spy on, attack, and neutralize any political dissenters like Black Lives Matter protestors or journalists. This is another tool at their disposal to enforce the status quo of the exploitation and oppression of billions around the world for the enrichment of the few at the top. This is unacceptable.