TITUS STATEMENT ON FISA

Jan 11, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada’s First Congressional District released the following statement after voting against the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, a bill that allows considerable use of Section 702 of FISA against United States citizens.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows the targeting of communications of non-U.S. persons outside the United States. Section 702 authorizes surveillance and information collection of non-U.S. persons while they are outside of the United States even if there are communications involving Americans.

“I cannot support a bill that subjects the communications of Americans to warrantless searches. The government should do its due diligence if it wants to search the 702 database for information regarding U.S. citizens. This bill’s provisions that address warrantless searches fall short. That is why I voted for an amendment, which Republicans defeated, that would have instituted meaningful warrant requirements relating to the communications of U.S. citizens. The amendment would have kept the heart of the 702 program intact and made it harder for the U.S. government to spy on its own people.”

FACT: THE FISA AMENDMENTS REAUTHORIZATION ACT FALLS SHORT

 

  • The bill fails to consider the core concern of most members—the government’s use of Section 702 information against United States citizens in investigations that have nothing to do with national security. 

 

  • The bill’s warrant “requirement” applies only to fully predicated, official investigations—and not to the hundreds of thousands of searches the FBI runs every day, just to track down a lead or check out a tip.  The FBI admits that under this bill they will almost never be forced to use a warrant to access your email or phone calls.

 

  • This requirement applies only to the FBI.  Civil liberties groups are rightfully concerned that other agencies will begin to use this treasure trove of information in immigration, tax, and drug enforcement cases completely unrelated to national security. 

 

  • The bill’s warrant provision is riddled with loopholes. It does not apply to any search “related to national security”—but the bill does not define this term, and the government will likely use the ambiguity to allow a large number of purely domestic searches.

 

  • Similarly, a general exception for information that “could assist in mitigating a threat” could swallow the entire rule.  The Fourth Amendment permits a carefully tailored emergency exception to protect the public—but any search might assist in mitigating a threat, and this language will permit a wide range of unconstitutional searches.

 

  • The bill allows the restarting of so-called “about collection,” a type of surveillance that was shut down after it twice failed to meet Fourth Amendment scrutiny.  The concept of “about collection” appears nowhere in the statute, thereby allowing the government permission to continue a practice that sweeps in massive amounts of purely domestic communications.  It makes Section 702 worse, not better.