Ahead of 702 hearing, U.S. senators push to make out-of-control spying powers permanent

Washington D.C. — Tomorrow the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will discuss Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. The statute authorizes highly invasive U.S. surveillance programs like Prism and Upstream and is set to expire at the end of 2017 unless the Congress acts. In advance of the hearing, Politico reports that all of the Republican members of the committee have introduced legislation to make the law permanent without any reform. Not only does this measure ignore the demonstrable need to rein in the law, it would compound the human rights issues by making the statute permanent. Access Now urges the committee to take what are clearly necessary steps for reform.

The following is attributable to Amie Stepanovich, U.S. Policy Manager at Access Now:

“Congress included the sunset clause in Section 702 to ensure continued oversight of the extraordinary legal authority granted. Regular sunsets give Congress and the public the chance to reconsider the rules, examine how they have been implemented, and put in place necessary safeguards for any problems that arise. It is truly disappointing to see half of the committee charged with overseeing the intelligence community abdicate this responsibility on the eve of the first public discussion.

“Surveillance conducted pursuant to Section 702 is highly invasive. It undermines the human rights of people in the United States and around the world. These programs can and must be reformed.

“Even the secret FISA Court refused to certify surveillance programs after it became clear there were serious compliance problems. These powers are open to abuse. And the public will no longer accept that. They are increasingly clued in to the overreach of Section 702, and the political environment is turning toward reform. Last month we saw major technology companies step forward, sending a letter to Congress asking for the common-sense changes to the law that  Access Now has been pushing for since 2016.

“This new proposal shows that some members want to bury their heads in the sand and ignore reality. Instead of having an honest conversation about the problems inherent with the law and working together for a reasonable compromise, it appears that these members would rather the Senate Intelligence hearing tomorrow become little more than theater. We deserve better.”