The President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) has recommended that Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) should be reauthorized upon its expiry by the end of this year.
Section 702, which is one of the United States’ most critical intelligence tools used against national security threats, is set to expire on December 31 unless Congress takes action to reauthorize it.
It authorizes the National Security Council, the Department of Homeland Security, and security/intelligence agencies like FBI and CIA, to collect foreign intelligence information from non-U.S. persons located abroad.
It provides intelligence on activities of terrorist organizations, weapons proliferators, spies, malicious cyber actors, and other foreign adversaries.
On the basis of intelligence obtained under this authority, the U.S. government has been able to understand and respond to threats posed by China, rally the world against Russian atrocities in Ukraine, locate and eliminate terrorists that posed threat to the U.S. mainland and its interests abroad, enable the disruption of fentanyl trafficking, and mitigate the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, among others.
Section 702 has been critical to monitoring the activities of potential suicide bombers who threaten U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
At the same time, civil liberties groups such as ACLU allege that the U.S. government is engaging in mass, warrantless surveillance of Americans’ and foreigners’ phone calls, text messages, emails, and other electronic communications and abusing its surveillance authorities.
ACLU called on Congress to significantly reform the law, a key provision of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.
President Joe Biden had asked his Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) to conduct a review of the effectiveness of Section 702 collection and oversight and to provide recommendations regarding potential reforms. In order to inform ongoing discussions about Section 702’s reauthorization, the Biden administration released the PIAB’s report.
The unanimous conclusion reached by the group of independent, experienced experts says that failure to reauthorize Section 702 could be “one of the worst intelligence failures of our time.”
“We agree with the Board’s recommendation that Section 702 should be reauthorized without new and operationally damaging restrictions on reviewing intelligence lawfully collected by the government and with measures that build on proven reforms to enhance compliance and oversight, among other improvements,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer said in a joint statement.
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