Section 702 was introduced as a tool to combat terrorism focused on individuals overseas, but in reality it is more expansive. Under Section 702, the government can target individuals overseas — including by eavesdropping on their conversations with people in the U.S. — for merely having information related to “foreign affairs” in their emails, chats, texts or phone calls. Thus, targets could include journalists, activists, private individuals, and companies who have no relation to terrorism or criminal activity whatsoever.
Most Americans would be shocked to know that under Section 702 the government collects hundreds of millions of communications each year —half of which may contain the private information of U.S. residents — without a warrant, probable cause, or many of the other protections guaranteed by our Constitution. The government does this in part by tapping into the internet backbone — the set of cables and switches that facilitate internet traffic across the world — and temporarily copying traffic flowing in and out of the United States to comb through it for communications associated with its tens of thousands of targets. Swept up in Section 702 surveillance is everything from mundane communications to e-mails with loved ones, intimate photos, private business conversations, and privileged attorney-client correspondence.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
At The Hill, Neema Singh Guliani and Jesse Blumenthal write about section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: