Civics: A Powerful Tool US Spies Misused to Stalk Women Faces Its Potential Demise

Dell Cameron:

The federal law authorizing a vast amount of the United States government’s foreign intelligence collection is set to expire in two months, a deadline that threatens to mothball a notoriously extensive surveillance program currently eavesdropping on the phone calls, text messages, and emails of no fewer than a quarter million people overseas.

The US National Security Agency (NSA) relies heavily on the program, known as Section 702, to compel the cooperation of communications giants that oversee huge swaths of the internet’s traffic. The total number of communications intercepted under the 702 program each year, while likely beyond tally, ostensibly reaches into the high hundreds of millions, according to scraps of reportage declassified by the intelligence community over the past decade, and the secret surveillance court whose macroscopic oversight—even when brought to full bear against the program—scarcely takes issue with any quotidian abuses of its power.

As of now, members of Congress have introduced exactly zero bills to prevent 702 from sunsetting on January 1, 2024, even though many—perhaps a majority—view this intelligence “crown jewel” as fundamental to the national defense, a flawed but fixable law. The Democrats, who control the Senate, are not blameless in stalling the reauthorization, with more than a handful vying to ensure its renewal is contingent on forcing the government to obtain warrants before using 702 data to investigate its own citizens. Nevertheless, the internal conflict roiling the Republican Party—many of whose members share in the desire to rein in the government’s far-reaching domestic surveillance capabilities—deserves the lion’s share of the credit right now for neutralizing any hope of a consolatory agreement.