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Independent Board Divided On Warrantless Surveillance Law

The federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Board agreed that an expiring law poses a threat to citizen privacy, but it still called for reauthorization of the law, the New York Times reports. The board called for imposing new limits on it, but it is divided on what those limits should be. The law, known as Section 702, allows for warrantless surveillance of targeted foreigners even when they are communicating with or about Americans. One proposed remedy the board is divided over is requiring that a court be involved before analysts can deliberately look at Americans’ intercepted communications. The partisan disagreement over how to place checks on the program may complicate the impact of the report in Congress. The law must be reauthorized this year if it is to remain in effect.

The board is an independent agency that Congress established several years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Three of its current members were chosen by Democrats and two by Republicans. Congress previously reauthorized the law in 2012 and 2018. It faces an uncertain fate this cycle. Hard-right Republicans are opposing it in alignment with former President Trump’s hostility to the “deep state,” joining forces with liberal-leaning civil liberties advocates. Much of the controversy has centered on the ability of the intelligence analysts to use Americans’ identifiers as query terms, since that sometimes results in reading private messages sent to or from Americans that were gathered without warrants. FBI officials have repeatedly violated standards on querying for Americans’ information. The bureau adopted further limits in 2021 and 2022.


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