U.S. Legislators Are Fighting for More Restrictions on Purchased Data and Wiretaps wired.com

Dell Cameron, Wired:

A “must-pass” defense bill wending its way through the United States House of Representatives may be amended to abolish the government practice of buying information on Americans that the country’s highest court has said police need a warrant to seize. Though it’s far too early to assess the odds of the legislation surviving the coming months of debate, it’s currently one of the relatively few amendments to garner support from both Republican and Democratic members.


Congressional staffers and others privy to ongoing conferencing over privacy matters on Capitol Hill say that regardless of whether the amendment succeeds, the focus on data brokers is just a prelude to a bigger fight coming this fall over the potential sunsetting of one of the spy community’s powerful tools, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the survivability of which is anything but assured.

Cameron cites his February story, reporting bipartisan skepticism over the reauthorization of Section 702. But Karoun Demirjian, of the New York Times, is bizarrely framing the abuse of this law and disagreement with its renewal as a “far-right” concern:

Since the program was last extended in 2018, the G.O.P.’s approach to law enforcement and data collection has undergone a dramatic transformation. Disdain for the agencies that benefit from the warrantless surveillance program has moved into the party mainstream, particularly in the House, where Republicans assert that the F.B.I.’s investigations of Mr. Trump were biased and complain of a broader plot by the government to persecute conservatives — including some of those charged for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — for their political beliefs. They argue that federal law enforcement agencies cannot be trusted with Americans’ records, and should be prevented from accessing them.

If you do not read it very carefully, this is a shining profile of a Republican party which now appears to be standing up for privacy rights. But it is not the party with a track record of supporting reform. Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Florida, is cited as a Republican who sees Section 702 as overreaching and will not reauthorize it — though Demirjian notes he did so last time it was up for a vote. At the time, though there was plenty of evidence that surveillance authorized by the law was being routinely abused by intelligence agencies, Gaetz rejected an attempt to introduce new restrictions. Now that Republicans have apparently been the victims of Section 702 violations, they are more on board. As for Democrats?

In recent years, Capitol Hill has welcomed several new Democrats with backgrounds in national security who favor extending the program. But convincing others is a challenge, as most members of the party — including Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader — have voted against extensions. Even President Biden voted against the law to legalize the program in 2008, when he was a senator.

U.S.-based readers concerned about privacy and surveillance might wish to ensure there is bipartisan consensus on restricting private data purchases and warrantless wiretaps.