Steven Aftergood suggests there’s disagreement among Senate Intelligence Committee members about whether or not the FISA Amendments Act allows the government to get US person content without a warrant.
The dispute was presented but not resolved in a new Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (FAA) Sunsets Extension Act, which would renew the provisions of the FISA Amendments Act through June 2017.
“We have concluded… that section 702 [of the Act] currently contains a loophole that could be used to circumvent traditional warrant protections and search for the communications of a potentially large number of American citizens,” wrote Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall.
But Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Committee chair, denied the existence of a loophole. Based on the assurances of the Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community, she said that the Section 702 provisions “do not provide a means to circumvent the general requirement to obtain a court order before targeting a U.S. person under FISA.”
I don’t think there is a conflict. Rather, I think DiFi simply responded to Wyden and Udall’s assertions with the same spin the government has used for some time. That’s because DiFi is talking about “targeting” and Wyden and Udall are talking about “searching” US person communications.
DiFi quotes much of the language from Section 702 earlier in her statement on FAA, repeating, repeating the word “target” three times.
In enacting this amendment to FISA, Congress ensured there would be important protections and oversight measures to safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. persons, including specific prohibitions against using Section 702 authority to: “intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States;” “intentionally target a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States if the purpose of such acquisition is to target a particular, known person reasonably believed to be in the United States;” “intentionally target a United States person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States;” or “intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of the acquisition to be located in the United States.” As an additional measure the law also requires that an acquisition under Section 702 “shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” [my emphasis]
Her specific retort to the problem Wyden and Udall differentiates clearly between “querying information collected under Section 702 to find communications of a particular United States person” and “conduct[ing] queries to analyze data already in its possession” and “targeting.”
Finally, on a related matter, the Committee considered whether querying information collected under Section 702 to find communications of a particular United States person should be prohibited or more robustly constrained. As already noted, the Intelligence Community is strictly prohibited from using Section 702 to target a U.S. person, which must at all times be carried out pursuant to an individualized court order based upon probable cause. Read more