AG Sessions calls for permanent renewal of ‘domestic spying program’

Friday, November 3, 2017
By Paul Martin
3 Nov, 2017

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pushing to permanently renew the controversial section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) following Tuesday’s terrorist attack that killed eight people in Manhattan.

Speaking to law enforcement officials and attorneys at the Southern District US Attorney’s office in lower Manhattan on Thursday, Sessions outlined a three-pronged security strategy, including President Donald Trump’s embattled travel ban, securing government access to electronic devices, and surveillance of non US citizens overseas, calling it “not a political matter, but a safety matter.”

A key component of this strategy, Section 702 originated as part of a broad surveillance program from the George W. Bush-era that allowed the FBI, CIA and NSA to spy on people in the US and abroad without a warrant. Congress passed Section 702 following the 2005 revelation that the government had been spying on the communications of US citizens’ internet communications and phone calls with foreigners.

With Section 702 set to expire in just 59 days, Sessions called on Congress to pass its renewal “before Christmas” and without sunset provisions, making it permanent.

The proposed changes to Section 702 would vastly expand its application to any criminal proceeding that “affects, involves, or is related to” US national security. The bill does not permit judicial review, preventing any judge from challenging Sessions’ interpretation of national security. Critics of the bill have called it a ‘domestic spying program.’

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