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Congress Is About To Vote On Expanding the Warrantless Surveillance of Americans (vice.com) 226

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On Tuesday afternoon, a handful of U.S. Representatives will convene to review an amendment that would reauthorize warrantless foreign surveillance and expand the law so that it could include American citizens. It would, in effect, legalize a surveillance practice abandoned by the NSA in 2017 in order to appease the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which found the NSA to have abused its collection capacity several times. If it passes Tuesday's review, the bill may be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives as early as Thursday. Drafted by the House Intelligence Committee last December, the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 is an amendment to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It is one of six different FISA-related bills under consideration by Congress at the moment, but by far the most damaging to the privacy rights of American citizens.

FISA was enacted in 1978, but Section 702, referred to by former FBI Director James Comey as the "crown jewels of the intelligence community," wasn't added until 2008. This section allows intelligence agencies to surveil any foreigner outside the U.S. without a warrant that the agency considers a target. The problem is that this often resulted in the warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens as well due to two loopholes known as "backdoor searches" and "about collection." Backdoor search refers to a roundabout way of monitoring Americans' communications. Since intelligence agencies are able to designate any foreigner's communications as a target for surveillance, if this foreigner has communicated with an American this means this American's communications are then also considered fair game for surveillance by the agency.

Congress Is About To Vote On Expanding the Warrantless Surveillance of Americans

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:04AM (#55899725)

    The government absolutely needs to the legal ability to keep the 99% under constant surveillance in order to ensure that they don't rise up against the 1%, after all.

    • And to do it, they need the 99%'s support in the voting booth. So everyone, please: remember to vote for Republicans and Democrats this coming November! And if you're a member of some other party, for fuck's sake, please don't run for office, or at least remember to stay off those ballots!
    • Ok, let's be clear about this. This "debate" is about what we suspect is still going on and about what Congress refuses to even ask of what is being done under FISA or the Patriot Act.

      Most Americans including myself don't give a damn whether or not the Federal government is spying on the communications in and out of the US if it were actually being targeted at communications with terrorists, certain foreign institutions and foreign governments as part of legitimate national security and international crimi

  • They are watching (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:06AM (#55899737)

    You're going to be surveilled, whether it's legal or not, so you might as well just legalise it and give up the pretence that you live in a free country.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      AC its legal when its 5 hops from any foreigner. 6 hops if the foreigner is well-disciplined and attempts to avoid NSA global collection.
    • by Pieroxy ( 222434 )

      If it is illegal, at least it cannot be used against you in a court of law. that's the only difference.

      Of course, when they see someone doing illegal stuff on a regular basis, they ask for a warrant and then everything becomes legal. But in order to ask for a warrant they are supposed to convince a judge of the hint you have. Not that much of a roadblock I guess. But still.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Dumbshits

  • by adosch ( 1397357 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:19AM (#55899803)

    It would, in effect, legalize a surveillance practice abandoned by the NSA in 2017...

    AND hey, this is what we do in the United State of America: sling on agenda measures on to bills that are either completely 180 to what it's being appended to, ambiguous loopholes to get around the bill up for question or, in cases like this, just Texas Hold'em all-in.

    Don't care if there is some piece of paper that 'says what they do', it's happening now, and hasn't ceased just because Snowdon.

  • ToiletPaper (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:19AM (#55899807) Homepage
    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
    Stupid little thing called the 4th Amendment... Any conflicts?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Land of the free, huh?

      • Re: ToiletPaper (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @09:26AM (#55900197)

        Well, "home of the brave" went out the window a long time ago when the US allowed "but terrrrist" to be a catch-all argument whenever something was to be done that eliminated another liberty, why bother clinging to that other part of the last line of the anthem?

        • It actually flew out the window when they interpreted the interstate commerce clause to mean anything the owner might at some point in the future sell over state lines.
          • It actually flew out the window when they interpreted the interstate commerce clause to mean anything the owner might at some point in the future sell over state lines.

            I think you meant anything for which an interstate market exists, regardless of whether commerce might occur. Seriously, Wickard v. Filburn (1942) was about preventing someone from growing their own wheat on their own land for their own consumption; the argument was that the entirely local action of simply growing one's own wheat and consuming it oneself could have an effect on the interstate wheat market. The regulations were justified on the basis of the "interstate commerce" clause but were applied to an

    • The only conflicts are 50 US Senators, 435 Representa^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H the millions of citizen voters who don't vote out these "representatives" that continually erode our rights.

      Besides, we don't need this security. Think of the children! What about terrorists!? Do you want those terrorists blowing up kidnapped children!?

      A poor Archer meme just came to mind (be warned, this is terrible, but I laughed!). 4th Amendment: Do you want terrorists blowing up children

      • Can't really say I'm for an expansion of domestic spying. It seems like the disease is a mosquito bite and the cure is to immerse yourself in fire.

    • The Judicial Branch has entirely abdicated its responsibility to protect us from the government. Indeed, it seems that SCOTUS believes the reverse. In theory, Congress could pass all the snooping laws they wanted, but the judges would promptly swat them down on 4th Amendment grounds.

      "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it " -- Learned Hand

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      That piece of paper only has value if it is enforces. It will only be enforced if there is punishment for those who break those laws. That ca only happen with accountability.
      No accountability? Then it might as well not exist.

      If you live in a house that says "No cookies before dinner." and you eat cookies and mom only says that you should not do that, then I will keep eating cookies.
      Just saying that you will take away my allowance and then get it from dad means there is no accountability.

      So you can call it w

    • by flink ( 18449 )

      You know how a politician can say "Think of the children!" and pass any crap law? You know how a cop can say "I feared for my life!" and walk after shooting a guy?

      Well, all a government lawyer has to do is say "It's a matter of national security!" and they get a pass on the 4th Amendment.

    • Can't you just reinterpret "unreasonable?" It is a pretty vague word, after all. I bet we could get into a big long stupid Slashdot thread where we argue about 3-5 different opinions on what it could mean.
      • The problem was never the definition of "reasonable". "Reasonableness" is not the criteria for a legal search: having a warrant is. Searching or seizing someone else's property without their consent, legally, requires special legal dispensation granting immunity for that violation of the owner's property rights. Said special legal dispensation is known as a warrant. Without a warrant, searching or seizing someone else's property (domestic of foreign, it makes no difference) is a criminal act, regardless of

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:21AM (#55899811)

    -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
    Hash: SHA512

    Bring it on.
    -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
    Version: GnuPG v1

    [Filter error: That's an awful long string of letters there.]
    -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

    Well, I tried.

  • by DeplorableCodeMonkey ( 4828467 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:24AM (#55899829)

    I used to work with a few Syrian expatriates who were nominally Muslim. They were shocked at the level of Saudi influence in the mosques in our region and had to really bounce around to find one that was not on the take. That's their word, not mine. They could not believe that we'd spend so much time and money on "surveillance," but allow what would be the equivalent of open KGB recruitment (as in uniformed Soviet officers at career fairs) on college campuses during the Cold War.

    I have a much simpler and less constitutionally dangerous solution:

    1. Pass a law forbidding the funding of any domestic organization by a foreign government except the Vatican.
    2. Authorize the use the corporate death penalty and full asset forfeiture for any organization convicted of intentionally accepting that funding.
    3. Pass a law that amends immigration law to provide for the banishment of any foreigner who is convicted of espionage or sedition.
    4. Prosecute all extremist preachers (like Wahabis and Salafists) under the Sedition Act.
    5. Pass a law providing the courts with the discretionary power to remove the citizenship of any foreign-born person who is convicted of sedition or espionage

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @09:30AM (#55900237)

      1. Why exempt the Vatican?
      2. Careful, I could easily construct a way to get rid of political rivals that way.
      3. No complaints here, as long as we find ways to ensure that this isn't abused to get rid of "inconvenient" people.
      4. Does that include the Westboro Baptist Church?
      5. See 3. Also, where do you want to put such a person, most likely there is no original state to shove him into.

      • 1. Why exempt the Vatican?

        Because it puts the Roman Catholic Church and its institutions at risk. The RCC is the largest religion in the US and controls 1/3 of our hospitals. Nothing good can come from antagonizing your largest native religious group and putting at risk an immense number of charitable organizations, hospitals and colleges connected to it and its international seat of authority.

        2. Careful, I could easily construct a way to get rid of political rivals that way.

        It could, but if you establish a

        • 1) Let's for a moment imagine that this has a chance to survive the first amendment, will Israel and Saudi Arabia get the same preferential treatment? I mean, let's face it, they already do, but making it official...?
          2) You remember when it became a law that you'd have to declare if you hand a load of money to politicians? What happened? A couple letterbox companies sprung into existence where you could conveniently send your money to who were then the ones who handed the money to the politician. I bet you'

    • Why does the Vatican get a pass? They helped cover up pedophile priests for decades.

      If someone is convicted of espionage, your plan is to kick them out of the country instead of punishing them? I mean, unless they have diplomatic immunity so that we couldn't prosecute them, what does that solve?

      Why are you limiting prosecution of preachers to Wahabis and Salafists? I mean, if you're serious about religion being used against the U.S....

      Oh, wait, you're not.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In 2008, DEMOCRATS controlled both the House and the Senate.

    Hey, they had to lay the groundwork for a surveillance regime to use against Trump.

    Why else would we need the FBI to use a bogus "dossier" to get a FISA warrant against Trump's campaign and then have UN Ambassador Susan Rice unmask all of them?

    And then feed all that to Robert Mueller?

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:43AM (#55899949)

    I think it's hilarious that they don't realize that it's their own insatiable desire to spy on everyone that is the primary driving force behind the spread of encrypted communications. That they don't realize this truth makes it all the more funny.

    • Exactly. Tell that whiny dude from the FBI that THIS is why Americans need unbreakable encryption.

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      I think it's hilarious that they don't realize that it's their own insatiable desire to spy on everyone that is the primary driving force behind the spread of encrypted communications. That they don't realize this truth makes it all the more funny.

      The law will not be to legalize it. They will conduct mass surveillance whether it is openly legal or not. What the law will do is make it seem that they are not conducting mass surveillance to lower the demand for ubiquitous encryption. I would prefer that they just make mass surveillance openly legal since it is going to happen anyway creating more demand to deploy ubiquitous encryption.

      Would this frustrate lawful interception? Yes, and I do not care. If they wanted me to trust them, then they should

  • by Parker Lewis ( 999165 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:44AM (#55899955)
    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety". Benjamin Franklin.
    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety". Benjamin Franklin.

      Police states never ensure the safety of the people, Police states ensure the power of those who have it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All you can do is watch it fail.

  • We need MORE encryption, not less, as the FBI wants.

    We'll need it _everywhere_!

  • When you have many groups in a nation, and many of them hate each other [wnd.com], you will have massive instability. Add technology into the mix and you have a surveillance state. Before this nifty new tech, it would have simply been an informant state as in the Soviet Union: turn in a coworker and get twice as many beets in your soup this week.

  • There's a very simple solution that allows one to completely avoid this surveillance- don't talk to foreigners. It often ends poorly. For example, it is known that talking to Slovenian women [wikipedia.org] leads to disaster.

  • for the Reichstag to burn down.

  • Since intelligence agencies are able to designate any foreigner's communications as a target for surveillance, if this foreigner has communicated with an American this means this American's communications are then also considered fair game for surveillance by the agency.

    First off, note that this is what was used to catch Trump's ppl committing treason. We were listening in on Russian/Chinese/Amongst others communications and caught trump's ppl asking for a different secured way to talk to them. This occurred PRIOR to Trump being elected.

    Secondly, just because you talk to a foreigner outside of our nation does NOT mean that they can then listen to all your calls. There has to be REASONABLE reason for such a thing to happen. Now, if you talk to a known/suspected terror

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