(WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/5/17) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, is calling on all Americans to tell their congressional representatives to either significantly revise or let expire at the end of this year Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Act (FISA) — a law that permits the U.S. government to “incidentally” capture and warrantlessly search the communications of millions of U.S. citizens and residents.
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At a minimum, Section 702 must be reformed to require federal officials to obtain a FISA court warrant based on probable cause to search and unmask any data of U.S. citizens and residents captured under the program. Under a probable cause standard, the government would need to provide evidence that the person whose data was intercepted is a “foreign power” or “agent of a foreign power” that possess a tangible threat to the safety and security to the U.S. either directly or through an immediate link. Absent probable cause, any other communications of U.S. persons should be made inaccessible to federal agencies and purged from U.S. databases.
Since it was enacted in 2008, Section 702 of FISA has led to the indiscriminate bulk collection of millions of American citizens’ communication data. Prior to Section 702, government agencies had to prove an individual was a “foreign power or agent of a foreign power” to secure a warrant to intercept electronic communications.
Under Section 702, the U.S. Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence are authorized to surveil and collect the communications of foreign nationals who are not U.S. persons or are currently located outside the U.S. without the need of a FISA warrant. However, while intercepting the bulk foreign communications data, the communications of U.S. citizens and residents are regularly amassed and stored.
Earlier this year the Director of National Intelligence’s office failed to honor its pledge of providing Congress with an official estimate to the number of Americans and permanent residents’ communications that were incidentally collected under Section 702.
This indiscriminate data collection impacts Americans’ right to privacy and exercise of free speech as warrantless searches under Section 702 classify all exchanges with foreign entities or persons as a potential security threat.
Tens of thousands of times a year, the NSA, CIA, and FBI routinely search these databases that include millions of Americans’ communications without warrants. American Muslims are particularly vulnerable to overly broad searches that make little distinction between “foreign intelligence” and “foreign affairs” queries. This is especially true as President Trump fosters a national security environment that is hostile to Americans Muslims and their civil rights.
The federal government’s foreign surveillance interception of domestic communications also impacts the free speech and privacy rights of those who engage in: advocacy work, journalism, online and electronic media, immigration related work, international legal counsel, victims of human rights abuses, and the many others who regularly engage in foreign communication but pose no danger to the U.S.
According to Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board PCLOB, an independent government agency within the Executive Branch, Section 702 has never provided meaningful information about domestic terrorist threats, and has at most helped in one terrorism investigation.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
La misiÃ³n de CAIR es mejorar la comprensiÃ³n del Islam, fomentar el diÃ¡logo, proteger las libertades civiles, capacitar a los musulmanes estadounidenses, y construir coaliciones que promuevan la justicia y la comprensiÃ³n mutua.
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