OTI Strongly Opposes House Intelligence Committee’s Bill to Expand All FISA Surveillance and Reauthorize Section 702

Tomorrow, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will debate its version of the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 4478), which the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved after debating it behind closed doors earlier this month (S. 2010). New America’s Open Technology Institute strongly opposes the bill, which would reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for four years without making any meaningful reforms, and would also significantly expand surveillance under all Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities, including Section 702. OTI also joined a coalition letter to Congress, signed by 36 civil society organizations, strongly opposing the bill. The House version of the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 would:

  • Create a new category of individuals and entities, including those whose members or associates include U.S. persons, that can be targeted under all FISA authorities for surveillance related to “international malicious cyber activity;”

  • Expand what can be targeted under Section 702 to include a “facility, place, premises, or property,” which goes far beyond what the plain language of the law currently allows;

  • Codify “abouts” collection where the government collects communications that merely reference, or are “about,” their target, in addition to those that are to or from the target;

  • Allow the government to begin unintentionally collecting “abouts” communications even if the intentional collection of those communications is not permitted by the FISA Court;

  • Codify the so-called “backdoor search loophole,” where the government warrantlessly searches Section 702 data for Americans’ communications; and

  • Permit Section 702 data that is warrantlessly searched to be used in any investigation or administrative proceeding, and to be introduced as evidence in a wide array of prosecutions, including many that are unrelated to an authorized purpose of collection under Section 702.

The following statement can be attributed to Robyn Greene, policy counsel and government affairs lead at New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“It is inexcusable that while the vast majority of Congress and the American public are demanding meaningful reforms to Section 702, the House Intelligence Committee is about to debate a bill that does the exact opposite. Nunes’ bill would not just codify the worst practices under Section 702, it would expand surveillance under all FISA authorities. It’s no wonder the Chairman only made the bill public late last night—the second this bill was exposed to public scrutiny, it became clear that it is the worst possible outcome for everyone’s privacy.”

OTI’s chart comparing the House’s USA Liberty Act to the USA Rights Act and the Senate and House FISA Amendments Reauthorization Acts is here. The coalition letter opposing the House FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 is available here.