Surveillance Drift: FISA Misused For Unchecked Spying On Americans

As we face the controversial and contentious issue of renewing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), it’s crucial to reflect on its implications. The provision has been touted as a shield, securing America against foreign threats. However, it is increasingly apparent that it is a double-edged sword, lending itself to unchecked, warrantless domestic spying.

This week, the Senate conducted a contentious hearing regarding a new reapproval of the controversial provision.

First enacted nearly two decades ago, Section 702 has become a well-worn tool for the FBI and other intelligence agencies, enabling them to snoop on American citizens under the guise of maintaining national security. An alarming example of this overreach was the notorious illegal surveillance of 2016 Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.

The Biden administration, corrupt agency officials, and establishment legislators are intent on preserving the status quo, seeking to extend the unchecked reign of this statute. The bureaucrats responsible for decades of power misuse do not wish to relinquish their surveillance playground.

Alarmingly, the primary defenders of Section 702 during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing were the top-tier FBI, CIA, DOJ, DNI, and NSA officials. They passionately argued for the act’s preservation, suggesting a significant impairment of national security without it. They boasted of Section 702’s efficiency and specificity, stressing its irreplaceability.

Yet, echoing these sentiments were the witnesses and establishment Republicans. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) voiced their support for Section 702, contending it is essential for national security. This raises eyebrows when we consider the recent partisan actions of the DOJ and FBI, which have instilled a deep distrust of these institutions among Americans.

In stark contrast, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) were among the liberals who insisted on substantial reforms before approving Section 702. Yet, the history of FISA reforms paints a dismal picture. Past attempts to advance privacy and civil liberties protection through FISA reforms were futile, as a declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion from 2022 confirmed.

Meanwhile, the proposed “three-strike rule” to curtail overreach by agents seems little more than a band-aid solution. As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) pointedly remarked during the hearing, “The FBI has, right now, an unlimited hubris that you believe you are unaccountable.”

We now stand at a crucial juncture where we must examine whether these measures are not just necessary but also whether they are adequate. The representatives of Americans who mistrust the intelligence complex and the justice system must weigh these issues carefully before casting their FISA votes.

So, as we consider the renewal of Section 702, we must remember this: Is the surveillance tool serving as a shield to protect us, or has it become a weapon to snoop on us? The American people deserve a thorough review of the law, not another rubber stamp.