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US Senate votes to extend controversial FISA spying law

THE US SENATE on Thursday voted to extend the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless internet surveillance programme for six years, despite claims that it makes it “too easy to spy on Americans without a warrant.” 

The 65-34 vote renews Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was set to expire on Friday. 

The bill will now pass to President Donald Trump, who despite last week having denounced FISA on Twitter, will almost certainly sign it into law.

Proponents of FISA herald it as “the single most important intelligence tool that exists to keep Americans safe” and claim it’s an “important anti-terror tool” that has helped to thwart numerous terror plots including the 2009 conspiracy to bomb the New York City subway. 

However, while Section 720 of FISA was created on the basis of ‘national security’ following 9/11, it was later outed by Edward Snowden as a mass spying programme that enabled the US government to snoop on American citizens and foreign nationals.

Section 702 allows the US government to gather information from foreigners overseas, including emails and phone records, without a warrant by eavesdropping on huge amounts of digital communications via American companies like Facebook, Google and Verizon.

However, as critics of the programme have pointed out, it also incidentally collects an unknown amount of communications belonging to Americans. 

A 2016 report had revealed that the NSA collected more than 151 million records of Americans’ phone calls in 2015 alone.

In response to Thursday’s “failure”, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said that it will continue to challenge NSA mass spying in court.

“This is a long-abused law marketed as targeting foreigners abroad but which—intentionally and by design—subjects a tremendous amount of our Internet activities to government review, as they pass through key Internet checkpoints, and as they are stored by providers like Google and Facebook,” it said.

“Ultimately, the NSA uses Section 702 to sweep in and retain the communications of countless non-suspect Americans. “

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also outlined its opposition to the bill, saying it “risks codifying illegal practices that have been used to collect purely domestic communications.

“It will also allow warrantless backdoor searches of Americans’ information to continue largely untouched, imposing a warrant requirement only in cases of an established criminal investigation,” it added. µ

Source : Inquirer

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