U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is calling on Congress to “promptly” reauthorize a controversial surveillance measure set to expire on December 31, 2017.
(ANTIMEDIA) Washington, D.C. — On September 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats sent a letter to the leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate urging them to permanently reauthorize the controversial Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The letter, which was not made public until September 11, is addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Coats and Sessions say Congress must “promptly reauthorize, in clean and permanent form,” Section 702 of FISA. According to Sessions and Coats, Section 702 of FISA “allows the Intelligence Community, under a robust regime of oversight by all three branches of government, to collect vital information about international terrorists, cyber actors, individuals and entities engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other important foreign intelligence targets located outside the United States.” Section 702 produces foreign intelligence that protects the United States from “international terrorism and other threats,” the two men write.
Section 702 of the FISA will expire on December 31, 2017, unless Congress acts to reauthorize or reform the measure. Sessions and Coats would prefer the reauthorization be a permanent action so they will not have to keep asking for permission to indiscriminately monitor the public. As revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, Section 702 also authorizes two Internet surveillance programs known as PRISM and Upstream. PRISM gathers messaging data sent via Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and other tech companies, while Upstream taps into the so-called backbone of the Internet to gather data on targets.
The root of the problem lies with the inherently secretive nature of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, which was created as a result of the original FISA.The FISA court is notoriously secretive and is subject to little oversight. Critics say a lack of transparency has allowed various federal agencies to run mass surveillance programs with no accountability.
The courts were originally created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) in response to reports produced by the 1975 Church Committee. The Senate panel was tasked with investigating the foreign and domestic surveillance operations by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during the 1970s. The Church Committee also released detailed reports on the government’s Counter Intelligence Programs (COINTELPRO), which were used against activists and influential voices of opposition during the 1950s and ’60s.
However, since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has used the court to secretly interpret surveillance law for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This allows the police and government bureaucracies to operate in the shadows when monitoring the clueless public.
For those paying attention, it is not surprising to see Jeff Sessions attempt to cement mass surveillance into U.S. law. Sessions was a vocal proponent of surveillance well before he joined the Trump administration. In a recent report, the Center for Democracy & Technology focused on the former senator’s voting record and comments on the government’s use of surveillance. According to the CDT, “as a Senator, Sessions opposed the USA Freedom Act and was an ardent supporter of the NSA’s bulk collection program under Section 215 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, despite consistent evidence that the program never discovered or disrupted a terrorist plot.”
Sessions and Coats are not alone in their support for mass surveillance. Donald Trump and his administration have set the tone for mass surveillance in the name of fighting not only terrorism but also illegal immigration. Trump is busy working on erecting a heavily surveilled border wall and a digital biometric wall, and he has also consistently appointed individuals who support surveillance.
Further, Anti Media’s Carey Wedler recently reported on Trump’s nomination of Adam I. Klein to chair the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), which was created in 2004 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. “The president recently nominated a staunch advocate of mass surveillance to chair one of the few barriers standing between intrusive government spying and the American people’s privacy,” she wrote. Klein has publicly denounced whistleblower Edward Snowden and defended Section 702 by stating that 9/11 was the result of a lack of a massive surveillance network to combat terrorism.
The reality is that Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Dan Coats, and Adam Klein do not care about the rights and privacy of the American public. These men serve the State and will continue to erode and erase civil liberties and privacy protections as long as it suits their need for total control and omnipotence. The only roadblock on this path to tyranny is organized mass civil disobedience and opting out of taxation and moral support for the institutions that do not serve the people. Anything less will only serve to band-aid the situation rather than addressing the root cause of our present dilemma.