AG Sessions, DOJ Ask Congressional Leaders For A Clean, Forever Re-Authorization Of Section 702

from the also:-mandate-that-people-like-us dept

The DOJ and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have offered up their official plea for a clean reauthorization of Section 702 surveillance powers. These are due to expire at the end of the year, but so far there's been no concerted effort to subject it to greater restrictions -- at least nothing as cohesive as the opposition to Section 215 renewal that began shortly after the Snowden leaks started.

Unlike Section 215 phone records collections, the Section 702 collections at least appear to be somewhat useful in harvesting communications relevant to national security efforts. But these collections should be subjected to even greater scrutiny because of what they contain: communications. While the NSA may have ended its supremely vague "about" email collection program (which harvested emails talking about targets/keywords, along with those to and from actual targets), it appears to only have done so because it couldn't make it stop harvesting US persons' communications.

But none of that is mentioned in the Attorney General's letter to Congressional leaders. Instead, the request asks not only for a "clean" reauthorization, but a "forever" one as well.

We are writing to urge that the Congress promptly reauthorize, in clean and permanent form, Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), enacted by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), which is set to sunset at the end of this year.

Title VII of FISA allows the Intelligence Community, under a robust regime of oversight by all three branches of Government, to collect vital information about international terrorists, cyber actors, individuals and entities engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other important foreign intelligence targets located outside the United States. Reauthorizing this critical authority is the top legislative priority of the Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community. As publicly reported by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, information collected under one particular section of FAA, Section 702, produces significant foreign intelligence that is vital to protect the nation against international terrorism and other threats.

Whether or not the collections produce useful intel is beside the point. Congress very definitely should not remove the periodic renewal period for surveillance powers. Doing so would subject the powers to even less oversight. A periodic review period allows Congress to take recent events into account when determining how much surveillance power the government should have going forward. It also permits examination by fresh sets of eyes, some of which won't have been fully assimilated into the "national security above all else" way of thinking.

The reasons Congress shouldn't grant a clean, in-perpetuity re-auth are the very reasons Sessions wants Congress to never examine Section 702 collections again. The DOJ refers to a "comprehensive regime of oversight" in its letter, but that phrase greatly overstates the quality of surveillance oversight that's been provided over the past 15 years.

Given the administration's view -- along with the views of most of the party in power -- Sessions may get what he wants. If nothing else, he's relatively assured of walking away with a clean reauthorization -- barring the leak of any damning NATSEC documents between now and the end of the year. It may turn out the only reform effort put in place will be the NSA's voluntary ditching of the "about" collection.

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  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 13 Sep 2017 @ 3:24am

    Says a guy so completely out of touch with reality that is willing to bring back failed law enforcement strategies against drugs and ignore the will of the people expressed by legislators over the country legalizing marijuana by having law enforcement harass people making use of these new rights. Sure, why not give a government entity that can have such types in the lead unlimited, perpetual power?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2017 @ 3:52am


    Do these authorizations actually mean anything, or are they smoke and mirrors behind which the government spies on everybody all the time?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2017 @ 4:09am


    Completely out of touch? No! He just doesn't care.
    We're all potential filthy criminals, junkies and terrorists. Besides more power and less oversight lead (even indirectly) to a bigger budget.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2017 @ 5:28am

    Re: Re:

    The second is clearly the answer. They used 9/11 to push through a constitution violating law and keep pretending that we are actually at war with the concept of terror to go along with the war on cheaper untaxed drugs. Just like the boarder violations where they claim the constitution doesn't apply for some illogical reason it violates the very foundation of this country.

    This country is doomed unless it revamps its entire government and stops allowing the rights to be eroded away through inaction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2017 @ 6:11am

    "..robust regime of oversight by all three branches of Government..."

    What a world we live in where our government can so blatantly lie to itself, kiss it's own ass while doing it, and do both with a completely straight face.

    There's a talent I wish I had!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2017 @ 6:28am


    Actually, I view that statement to be quite accurate.

    "robust regime of oversight by all three branches of Government"

    I.e. An all seeing eye, granting widespread pervasive surveillance on all citizens to the current tyrants in power against the will of said citizens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Sep 2017 @ 6:33am


    I wouldn't say he is out of touch with reality. I would say he is drooling over the exercise in power he now gets to participate in. I suspect he has special counselors who work with him to keep him from drooling in public. I also suspect that he drools so much in private that his bed sheets need to be changed two or three times per night.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Sep 2017 @ 3:00pm

    Of course anything we actually gained from this program that might try to put peoples minds at ease that it's not being misused is considered super duper secret & we allow other agencies to invent how they got the info to hide its use.

    They tell us they need this, yet they spy on their oversight, they lie to their oversight, and the oversight just keeps rubber stamping it because the firms making money off of these invasions of privacy donate enough to ease any concerns.

    These programs literally are EVERYTHING the founding fathers did not want, an out of control group who were not accountable to the people making decisions & taking actions ignoring what the people want. We claim we are safer, but we've given up so much of our privacy to gain it for no actual returns. The terrorist plots the media gleefully reports on are mentally ill or impaired people lead stray by agents who create the plot & just need fall guys to get the headlines.

    It's a pity we've made discussion so toxic & roll out dial turn to 11 claims to silence others who disagree. We're on a really bad course, we need to make it stop, we need to stop playing the zero sum, black n white games.

    For all of this spying...
    We are still at war, we've created more wars, we've murdered innocents accidentally (whats the difference between a drone strike & flying a plane into a building? Both kill innocents, both think they are the good guys, both sides then want to retaliate making things worse for everyone.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2017 @ 6:58pm

    just further cementing our police state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    theOtherDude, 14 Sep 2017 @ 7:05am

    Its Par

    Big Government Republicans back at it, like always

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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