Snowden: Trump Must Veto Reauthorized NSA Spying Powers In Light Of FISA Memo

Donald Trump must veto reauthorized NSA spying powers which passed both the House and the Senate yesterday without a single reform, in light of an explosive four-page memo said to detail sweeping FISA Abuses by the FBI, DOJ and the Obama Administration during and after the 2016 presidential election, says former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

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The memo was circulated to the entire House of Representatives, prompting GOP lawmakers to call for its immediate release to the public. 

Snowden, who exposed the NSA's expansive mass surveillance program, contends that the expansive FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act never would have passed if the memo had been distributed before the vote. The Senate broke a filibuster led by Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Tuesday evening, voting 65-34, while the House voted last week 256-164 in favor of the bill with almost no changes.

The reauthorized FISA bill constitute the "crown jewels" of the Intelligence Community's spying powers, section 702, which allows the NSA to gather intelligence on foreigners overseas by surveilling fiber optic internet hubs where data enters the US.

Even President Trump voiced skepticism about reauthorizing the bill in a tweet earlier this year, where he claimed it had helped the Obama administration spy on the Trump campaign, although he infamously flip-flopped later.

While section 702 prohibits the targeting of Americans, US Intelligence agencies have used "backdoor" methods to search intercepted communications to spy on Americans without a warrant. The reauthorized bill allows the NSA to collect traffic on the Tor network along with VPN traffic - two methods of communication designed to enhance privacy and anonymity online. 

Research released last year showed that the NSA and the FBI, both of which have access to data collected under 702, had violated its powers hundreds of times by conducting unlawful searches and improperly targeting a person or account for surveillance.

Since then, over 40 privacy and transparency groups have called on Congress to reform the government's section 702 powers. They argued that compelling the NSA to get a warrant before accessing Americans' data would have no impact on foreign intelligence gathering efforts. Other legislative efforts would compel the government to reveal the approximate number of Americans surveilled under section 702, a promise made by both the Obama and Trump administrations that was later withdrawn. -ZD.net

Human Rights Watch called the reauthorized spying powers "direct threats" to democracy and human rights, while the Open Technology Institute says the bill "codifies and may even expand the government's most concerning practices." 

Per the Wall Street Journal, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell exhorted his colleagues to back extending the program ahead of Thursday's vote, calling it "one of the most important tools" for national security officials. By passing the bill, Congress rejected efforts by a coalition of conservative Republicans, civil libertarians and liberal Democrats to enact new privacy protections for Americans who are inadvertently caught up in surveillance by American intelligence agencies.

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