Biden signs ‘terrifying’ bill giving US agencies more spying power

President Joe Biden has approved a contentious legislation expanding the U.S. government agencies’ monitoring capabilities, raising concerns among critics that Americans’ privacy may be significantly affected.

On April 20, the US Senate approved, with a vote of 60-34, a bill that renews, expands, and modifies Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for another two years. President Biden endorsed this legislation on April 21.

Supporters of the legislation, which included President Biden and a significant number of representatives from both Democratic and Republican parties, emphasized the importance of the bill for enhancing US counter-terrorism efforts and safeguarding American national security interests.

Letting FISA lapse would have posed a risk. This essential component of our national security arsenal assists law enforcement in thwarting terrorist acts, drug smuggling, and violent extremism, as expressed by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during his Senate floor speech.

Opponents of the bill argued that its reauthorization and amendments would lead to a significant expansion of surveillance capabilities for organizations like the NSA, FBI, and CIA, ushering in a new period of extensive government spying.

Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, strongly criticized those who supported the April 20 bill in a post on X. She accused them of betraying American civil liberties.

Biden signs ‘terrifying’ bill giving US agencies more spying power

In simpler terms, Goitein stated that this provision allows the NSA to obtain access to the communication devices of nearly every U.S. business and an enormous number of organizations and individuals. Essentially, it’s a powerful tool for any president looking to monitor their political adversaries, journalists, or ideological opponents.

“This is a shameful moment in the history of the United States Congress.”

At present, U.S. organizations like the NSA have the power to make internet companies including Google and Verizon disclose confidential information about their suspects.

With President Biden’s signing of the bill into law, the US government now has expanded powers to compel providers of internet-related services for assistance in surveillance activities, surpassing their current capabilities.

Initially, the privacy-focused Republicans and Democrats expressed strong opposition towards the bill in the House of Representatives. However, on April 13, the bill managed to get past this hurdle. A proposed amendment seeking to mandate warrants for all internet surveillance activities by security agencies was unfortunately rejected with a narrow vote in the House.

Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, stated that the renewal of FISA section 702 took away something significant from America and called the law unconstitutional.

On April 13, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden characterized the bill as an unprecedentedly significant and alarming expansion of government surveillance power.

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2024-04-22 09:11