Trump Administration Wants A Clean Reauthorization For NSA Surveillance
from the because-of-course-it-does dept
Considering the new administration has stepped up its ousting of immigrants, expressed its disinterest in pursuing civil rights investigations of the nation’s law enforcement agencies, applauded asset forfeiture, and declared war on leakers, it comes as no surprise the White House supports a clean reauthorization of Section 702 surveillance.
The Trump administration does not want to reform an internet surveillance law to address privacy concerns, a White House official told Reuters on Wednesday, saying it is needed to protect national security.
The announcement could put President Donald Trump on a collision course with Congress, where some Republicans and Democrats have advocated curtailing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, parts of which are due to expire at the end of the year.
Section 702 has dodged reform efforts, thanks in part to the intelligence community’s unwillingness to discuss anything about it. Repeated requests by representatives for the NSA to come up with an estimate of how many US persons’ communications are swept up “inadvertently” have been met with shrugs and stalling. Five years after he was first asked, James Clapper promised to have something put together “soon.” We’re still waiting.
Not helping the matter is the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s evaluation of the program. After finding the Section 215 phone metadata program both useless and illegal, it had very little to say about the NSA’s internet backbone dragnet. The best it could offer was that it was likely legal and any collection of US persons’ communications was probably “inadvertent.” It agreed the massive collection program ran right up against the edges of the Fourth Amendment, but didn’t cross it — at least as far as it was willing to examine.
Unfortunately, there will be no follow-up arriving before the reauthorization period closes. The PCLOB is mostly dead and unlikely to be revived by an administration looking for a no-questions-asked rubber stamping of Section 702’s five-year renewal. Given that the unanswered questions about domestic surveillance weren’t answered in time for the 2012 renewal debate, it’s highly probable the Director of National Intelligence’s office won’t be providing these numbers to Congressional representatives ahead of the December deadline.
Hopefully, there will be a more organized push back against a clean reauthorization. Thanks to multiple leaks, Congressional representatives should actually have some idea how much domestic surveillance occurs under this statute. It’s more critical than ever that the program receive a detailed examination before the vote, considering the outgoing president gave more than a dozen federal agencies access to unminimized data/communications collected by the NSA.
And Trump himself has seen no reason to roll that sharing back, despite his antipathy towards much of Obama’s orders and legislation. Ironically, his Saturday morning tweetstorm griping about the Trump Tower being “wire tapped” by Obama ahead of the November election. Once again, Trump has offered no proof of this claim, but even if taken at face value, it would be the byproduct of the Section 702 program he has stated he wants renewed with no changes. Communications with foreign persons is fair game under Section 702, even if the communications originate in the US. The FBI’s acquisition of these communications (if that’s what has happened) is specifically approved by the recent data-sharing program. Perhaps Trump might want to take a closer look at the program before attempting to shove it past inquistive legislators.