Elizabeth Goitein Profile picture
Apr 15 25 tweets 5 min read Read on X
URGENT: Please read thread below. We have just days to convince the Senate NOT to pass a “terrifying” law (@RonWyden) that will force U.S. businesses to serve as NSA spies. CALL YOUR SENATOR NOW using this call tool (click below or call 202-899-8938). 1/25 act.demandprogress.org/call/no-on-sec…
Buried in the Section 702 reauthorization bill (RISAA) passed by the House on Friday is the biggest expansion of domestic surveillance since the Patriot Act. Senator Wyden calls this power “terrifying,” and he’s right. 2/25
I’ll explain how this new power works. Under current law, the government can compel “electronic communications service providers” that have direct access to communications to assist the NSA in conducting Section 702 surveillance. 3/25
In practice, that means companies like Verizon and Google must turn over the communications of the targets of Section 702 surveillance. (The targets must be foreigners overseas, although the communications can—and do—include communications with Americans.) 4/25
Through a seemingly innocuous change to the definition of “electronic communications surveillance provider,” an amendment offered by House intel committee (HPSCI) leaders and passed by the House vastly expands the universe of entities that can be compelled to assist the NSA. 5/25
If the bill becomes law, any company or individual that provides ANY service whatsoever may be forced to assist in NSA surveillance, as long as they have access to equipment on which communications are transmitted or stored—such as routers, servers, cell towers, etc. 6/25
That sweeps in an enormous range of U.S. businesses that provide wifi to their customers and therefore have access to equipment on which communications transit. Barber shops, laundromats, fitness centers, hardware stores, dentist’s offices… the list goes on and on. 7/25
It also includes commercial landlords that rent out the office space where tens of millions of Americans go to work every day—offices of journalists, lawyers, nonprofits, financial advisors, health care providers, and more. 8/25
When the amendment was first unveiled, one of the FISA Court amici took the highly unusual step of sounding a public alarm. Civil liberties advocates noted that the provision would encompass hotels, libraries, and coffee shops. 9/25 zwillgen.com/law-enforcemen…
The version HPSCI leaders offered Friday therefore exempts… hotels, library shops, and coffee shops, plus a handful of other establishments. But as the FISA Court amicus promptly pointed out, the vast majority of U.S. businesses remain fair game. 10/25 zwillgen.com/law-enforcemen…
The amendment even extends to service providers who come into our homes. House cleaners, plumbers, people performing repairs, and IT services providers have access to laptops and routers inside our homes and could be forced to serve as surrogate spies. 11/25
None of these people or businesses would be allowed to tell anyone about the assistance they were compelled to provide. They would be under a gag order, and they would face heavy penalties if they failed to comply with it. 12/25
That’s not even the worst part. Unlike Google and Verizon, most of these businesses and individuals lack the ability to isolate and turn over a target’s communications. So they would be required to give the NSA access to the equipment itself… 13/25
…or to use techniques or devices (presumably provided by the NSA) to copy and turn over entire communications streams and/or repositories of stored communications, which would inevitably include vast quantities of wholly domestic communications. 14/25
The NSA, having wholesale access to domestic communications on an unprecedented scale, would then be on the “honor system” to pull out and retain only the communications of approved foreign targets. (Let that sink in.) 15/25
HPSCI leaders deny that the administration has any intent to use this provision so broadly. Supposedly, there is a single type of service provider that the government wants to rope in. But they didn’t want anyone to know what that service provider was… 16/25
…so they hid the real goal by writing the amendment as broadly and vaguely as possible. But no worries, Americans! The administration isn’t actually going to USE all the power it just persuaded the House to give it. 17/25
I cannot overstate how mindblowingly irresponsible that is. I don’t think *any* administration should be trusted with an Orwellian power like this one. But even if *this* administration doesn’t plan to make full use of it… (Go ahead and fill in the blank.) 18/25
There are certain powers a government should not have in a democracy. The ability to force ordinary businesses and individuals to serve as surrogate spies is one of them. Even if the targets are supposed to be foreigners, a power this sweeping WILL be abused. 19/25
By the way, when a privacy advocate tried to get @jahimes to engage on this issue, here is the thoughtful and conscientious reply given by the ranking member of HPSCI, a man who clearly cares deeply about civil liberties. 20/25
The Senate MUST stop this train before it is too late. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the House-passed bill this week. If there’s an opportunity to remove this provision, senators should remove it. If not, they should vote against the bill. 21/25
The White House will tell senators they have no choice other than to pass the House bill, because Section 702 expires on April 19, and trying to fix the House bill—or pass different legislation—would take too long. But the April 19 deadline exists only on paper. 22/25
The administration has already obtained FISA Court approval to continue Section 702 surveillance until April 2025. According to the administration itself, that approval “grandfathers” surveillance for a full year, even if Section 702 expires. 23/25 news.bgov.com/bloomberg-gove…
A notional deadline is no reason to create a surveillance state. The Senate must take the time to get this right. It’s not just our civil liberties that are at stake—it’s our democracy. @SenatorBennet @SenatorBooker @SenSherrodBrown @SenLaphonza @SenatorCantwell… 24/25
...@SenatorCardin @SenCoonsOffice @SenFettermanPA @SenatorHick @SenatorLujan @ChrisMurphyCT @PattyMurray @SenOssoff @SenAlexPadilla @SenJackyRosen @SenBrianSchatz @SenTinaSmith @SenStabenow @SenatorWarnock @SenPeterWelch 25/25

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More from @LizaGoitein

Jul 17
URGENT: Please call Senator Graham’s office (202-224-5972) *today* and demand that Section 1202 of the intelligence authorization bill, which will rein in a truly terrifying surveillance authority, be KEPT IN the bill. 1/17
When Congress reauthorized Section 702 in April, it included what @RonWyden called “one of the most dramatic and terrifying expansions of government surveillance authority in history.” I wrote about that expansion here: 2/17 thehill.com/opinion/techno…
Before this expansion, Section 702 allowed the government to compel “electronic communications service providers” (e.g., Verizon or Google) to assist with surveillance, generally by turning over a foreign target’s communications. 3/17
Read 17 tweets
Apr 20
It’s over (for now). A majority of senators caved to the fearmongering and bush league tactics of the administration and surveillance hawks in Congress, and they sold out Americans’ civil liberties. Section 702 has been reauthorized, not just without any meaningful reforms… 1/10
…but with “one of the most dramatic and terrifying expansions of government surveillance authority in history,” as @RonWyden aptly described it. It is nothing short of mind-boggling that 58 senators voted to keep this Orwellian power in the bill. 2/10
The provision effectively grants the NSA access to the communications equipment of almost any U.S. business, plus huge numbers of organizations and individuals. It’s a gift to any president who may wish to spy on political enemies, journalists, ideological opponents, etc. 3/10
Read 10 tweets
Apr 19
THANK YOU to the *thousands* of you who have made calls—WE NEED TO KEEP THEM COMING! Call 202-899-8938 to be connected to your Senators & urge them to vote “NO” on RISAA, which contains a “terrifying” provision (@RonWyden) that will force U.S. businesses to act as NSA spies. 1/6
The administration and intelligence officials will put ENORMOUS pressure on Senators today to just swallow this terrible bill, because otherwise Section 702 will lapse at the end of the day. We need to make sure they’re feeling just as much pressure FROM US. 2/6
As I pointed out yesterday, the April 19 deadline isn’t real. The FISA Court has already approved Section 702 surveillance until April 2025, and there’s a “grandfathering” provision in the law for such approvals. 3/6 nytimes.com/2024/04/18/us/…
Read 6 tweets
Apr 18
THERE WILL BE SENATE VOTES ON SECTION 702 TODAY. Please call this number (202-899-8938) ASAP to be connected to your Senators and urge them to vote “NO” on RISAA, which contains a “terrifying” provision (@RonWyden) that will force U.S. businesses to serve as NSA spies. 1/9
For more background on this provision, see my op-ed in the Hill yesterday…2/9 thehill.com/opinion/techno…
…or my tweet thread from Monday… 3/9
Read 9 tweets
Apr 16
URGENT: PLEASE KEEP THE CALLS COMING! Call this number (202-899-8938) ASAP to be connected to your Senators and urge them NOT to pass RISAA, which contains a “terrifying” provision (@RonWyden) that will force U.S. businesses to serve as NSA spies. 1/12
For more background on this provision, see my tweet thread from yesterday. The top line is that it would allow the NSA to compel a huge range of U.S. business and individuals to serve as surrogate spies. 2/12
You can also read more about this provision—and how the government wrote the language incredibly broadly to disguise the specific thing they were trying to get at—in this story in today’s @nytimes. 3/12 nytimes.com/2024/04/16/us/…
Read 12 tweets
Apr 12
I’m sad—and frankly baffled—to report that the House voted today to reward the government’s widespread abuses of Section 702 by massively expanding the government’s powers to conduct warrantless surveillance. 1/14
The amendment to require the gov’t to obtain a warrant to search Section 702 data for Americans’ communications failed by an achingly close vote of 212-212, following some truly shameless misrepresentations about the amendment from @MikeTurnerOH, the White House, & others. 2/14
Opponents branded the notion that the government should need a warrant to read Americans’ communications—the core of the Fourth Amendment and the guiding principle for searching Americans’ private correspondence for more than 200 years—as “extreme.” 3/14
Read 14 tweets

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