New FISA bill includes “vast” expansion of surveillance powers, forcing U.S. businesses to “become NSA spies”
04/19/2024 // Ethan Huff // Views

While many Americans are distracted by wars and rumors of wars, along with constant bread and circuses, the U.S. Senate is readying to pass the FISA reauthorization bill, which includes "vast" new surveillance powers.

Under the new law, any communications service in the United States could become a pawn of the National Security Agency (NSA), which continues to rapidly expand its national surveillance grid to track everyday Americans.

Section 702 of the FISA renewal bill states that any company hosting any form of communication service, i.e., a business that provides customer Wi-Fi, will be forced to surrender surveillance data to the NSA on demand.

"Buried in the Section 702 reauthorization bill (RISAA) passed by the House on Friday is the biggest expansion of domestic surveillance since the Patriot Act," warned Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, on X.

"Senator [Ron] Wyden calls this power 'terrifying,' and he's right."

Goitein continued in a series of tweets to unpack what Section 702 of the FISA renewal bill will do to Americans' privacy.

"Under current law, the government can compel 'electronic communications service providers' that have direct access to communications to assist the NSA in conducting Section 702 surveillance," she said.

"In practice, that means companies like Verizon and Google must turn over the communications of the targets of Section 702 surveillance. (The targets must be foreigners overseas, although the communications can – and do – include communications with Americans.)"

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(Related: Be sure to contact your legislators to tell them to oppose this massive expansion of the domestic surveillance state.)

Stop the spying

While small changes were made to the proposed bill to exempt certain businesses from the new surveillance and spying infrastructure, most American businesses would qualify as having to comply with whatever the NSA demands in terms of private information about their customers.

"If the bill becomes law, any company or individual that provides ANY service whatsoever may be forced to assist in NSA surveillance, as long as they have access to equipment on which communications are transmitted or stored – such as routers, servers, cell towers, etc.," Goitein further explained.

"That sweeps in an enormous range of U.S. businesses that provide wifi to their customers and therefore have access to equipment on which communications transit. Barber shops, laundromats, fitness centers, hardware stores, dentist’s offices ... the list goes on and on."

Even commercial landlords that rent out office space would be required to comply with the NSA's private data demands. This means that the tens of millions of employed Americans who work in leased office spaces would be subject to having their privacy invaded on demand.

Even worse are the provisions in the FISA reauthorization bill that would allow service workers to invade a person's home and steal private data at the behest of the NSA.

Workers such as house cleaners, plumbers, repair workers and IT service providers would be compelled under the new law to help the NSA obtain what it demands, and without the knowledge of their targets.

"None of these people or businesses would be allowed to tell anyone about the assistance they were compelled to provide," Goitein warned. "They would be under a gag order, and they would face heavy penalties if they failed to comply with it."

It is almost a certainty that these vast new "Orwellian" powers will be abused, which should not be the case in a country that is supposedly free, and among We the People whose rights are supposedly protected by the U.S. Constitution.

April 19 is the day the Senate is supposed to vote on this disturbing new legislation, so there is still time to stop it.

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