The petition to Congress reads:
“We demand strong reforms to the government’s surveillance powers under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Reject the permanent reauthorization of Section 702 – or any reauthorization lacking reforms that prevent innocent Americans’ personal communications from being swept up, stored in databases, and searched by intelligence agencies without a warrant. If those reforms are not possible, let Section 702 expire at the end of 2017.”
Right now, under a section of law known as Section 702, the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting and cataloging vast stores of data about Americans – emails, text messages, social media posts and phone calls.
Section 702 is supposed to give the NSA authority to investigate foreign intelligence targets outside the U.S. But the law is so broad that the NSA can listen in on almost anyone. In fact, the NSA’s records on people who are not targets far outnumber those who are, and many are inside the United States.1 And if your data does happen to be intercepted, the NSA and other federal agencies can search it without a warrant or probable cause.
We have a short window to rein in government snooping under Section 702 while Congress is debating the law’s reauthorization. Soon, Congress will be considering a bill to extend Section 702 before it expires at the end of this year. If we demand that our representatives stand up for our civil liberties, we can stop this bill’s worst civil liberties violations and put an end to warrantless spying on Americans under Section 702.
Incredibly, the NSA refuses to give even an estimate of the number of U.S. citizens and residents whose emails and phone calls are swept up under the law.2 However, a Washington Post review of 160,000 intercepted conversations provided by Edward Snowden found that nine out of ten of those tracked by the NSA were not surveillance targets, and nearly 50 percent were U.S. residents.3
Perhaps most disturbing, the NSA considers all intercepted data – whether from surveillance targets or not – as fair game to retain, catalogue and distribute to other government agencies without a warrant.4Once an American’s communications have been collected, they are no longer protected by the Fourth Amendment. The FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other agencies routinely search records collected by the NSA in a manner “akin to how Americans use Google search.”5
Rather than making us safer, the unchecked surveillance of U.S. residents by an unaccountable federal government makes us less safe. We need strong safeguards to protect our democracy and ensure that government surveillance tools are used only for legitimate security purposes. That’s why we’re joining with our friends at Demand Progress, Free Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to demand that Congress do more to protect our civil liberties.
Our representatives have the power to implement common-sense reforms that would limit the federal government’s vast reach into our lives under Section 702. These reforms must address the large scale of surveillance, protect against incidental collection of Americans’ communications and impose limits on how information collected under Section 702 can be used.6 If Congress cannot enact these crucial reforms to safeguard our civil liberties, it should let Section 702 expire at the end of this year.
Tell Congress to reform Section 702 and end government snooping on Americans. Click the link below to sign the petition:
Thanks for fighting back,
Brandy Doyle, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
- Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani, “In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are,” Washington Post, July 5, 2014.
- Dustin Volz, “NSA backtracks on sharing number of Americans caught in warrant-less spying,” Reuters, June 12, 2017.
- “In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are,” July 5, 2014.
- Robyn Greene, “How the government can read your email,” Politico, June 22, 2017.
- Robyn Greene, “OTI’s Reform Priorities for Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act,” Open Technology Institute at New America, May 2, 2017.