Washington wants Congress to renew warrantless surveillance statute
The White House is seeking to push Congress into renewing the statute allowing for the warrantless surveillance of foreign citizens outside the United States.
The White House has called for Congress to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows for warrantless surveillance of foreigners, including when they interact with Americans, according to a release.
"The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports the reauthorization by Congress of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a vital intelligence collection authority, which the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence conveyed today in a joint letter to congressional leadership," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a release.
According to Sullivan, Section 702 is "a cornerstone of US national security," as well as "an invaluable tool that continues to protect Americans every day and is crucial to ensuring that US defense, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies can respond to threats from the People's Republic of China, Russia, nefarious cyber actors, terrorists, and those who seek to harm our critical infrastructure."
Furthermore, the US official revealed that he had assigned Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer to coordinate the reauthorization effort for the White House, which would work closely with the Department of Justice, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and other federal partners to lobby Congress.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said later in the day that the failure to renew Section 702 would directly jeopardize US troops.
"Without 702, we will lose indispensable intelligence for our decision-makers and warfighters, as well as those of our allies. And we have no fallback authority that could come close to making up for that loss," Olsen said in remarks at the Brookings Institution.
According to the Director of National Intelligence, Section 702 "is a key provision of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that permits the government to conduct targeted surveillance of foreign persons located outside the United States, with the compelled assistance of electronic communication service provides."
This comes after US senior senators said they would look into the government's purchase and use of strong spyware developed by two Israeli hacking firms, as Congress passed legislation in recent days aimed at limiting the spread of hacking tools, NYT reported in December.
Israeli-led spyware industry has been embroiled in a seemingly never-ending spate of extremely prominent controversies. Revelations that it sells its spyware to authoritarian regimes, that its products have been used to spy on journalists, activists, politicians, and even potentially world leaders, and accusations that it played a role in murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death have put it at the center of international criticism.
The New York Times reported that the D.E.A. was utilizing Graphite in its foreign activities. The CIA claimed that it uses the technique legally and solely outside of the United States but has not addressed whether American citizens can be targeted using the hacking tool.
The same report eviscerated that a bill passed by Congress in December included provisions that give the director of national intelligence the authority to prohibit the intelligence community from purchasing foreign spyware, as well as requiring the director of national intelligence to submit to Congress each year a "watch list" of foreign spyware firms that pose a threat to American intelligence agencies, in reference to Israeli spyware companies.
Moreover, the Global Times reported last week that the United States conducted over 600 reconnaissance operations on China in 2022 alone, so spying on foreign citizens is nothing new to Washington.
Citing a Chinese technology and intelligence company called MizarVision, the report states that the US had used all sorts of spying aerial devices, some of which it disguised as civilian aircraft, including balloons, to conduct its spying operations.