EPIC, Brennan Center, CDT: New HPSCI Bill Reauthorizing Section 702 Is “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”

December 10, 2023

EPIC joined the Brennan Center for Justice an the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) in issuing a one-pager on the FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2023, the newly-introduced bill to reauthorize FISA Section 702 by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The one-pager details how the FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act is an “anti-reform bill in disguise” that would in fact expand surveillance conducted pursuant to Section 702, including by:

  • dramatically expanding surveillance of immigrants by allowing entirely suspicionless searches of Section 702 data for the communications of all people seeking to travel to the United States, whether on student or work visas or as tourists and business travelers; and
  • vastly expanding the number and types of U.S. businesses who must assist the government in conducting Section 702 surveillance by expanding the definition of “electronic communication service provider” to include entities that do not even have access to communications.

The one-pager also notes that the HPSCI bill’s “reforms” to Section 702—in particular the persistent abuse of warrantless backdoor searches for Americans’ communications—are carefully designed to have no practical effect. The bill’s prohibition on “evidence-of-a-crime only” queries would do nothing to prevent the vast majority of abuses of Section 702, including searches for communications of Black Lives Matter protesters and tens of thousands of others involved in “civil unrest,” over 19,000 donors to a congressional campaign, members of Congress, and a local political party were all labeled “foreign intelligence” queries.

EPIC and a bipartisan coalition of privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights groups have launched a campaign to significantly reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and related surveillance authorities. Members of this coalition recently urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to refrain from including any short-term reauthorization of FISA Section 702 in the continuing resolution or any other “must-pass” legislation.

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