Biden Signs Law Expanding Surveillance Powers for Two Years Amid Controversy

The intelligence community got more snooping powers from Congress, but it only lasts for two years this time. President Biden signed the law on Saturday after a big fight over Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This part allows the government to gather and look through communications of foreigners, including those with Americans, without needing a warrant.

The Senate voted 60-34 on Friday to pass the law, just before the old powers expired. Supporters of the spying tool stopped attempts to add a warrant rule and limit its reach. The new law might force data centers to give the government information that crosses their servers.

Some people criticized the law for the data center part, saying it would make almost anyone into a spy for the government. They also said it’s a problem that the law was written before we had cloud computing and large data centers.

The new law also cut the time it’s in effect from five years to two. Critics of the law wanted to make the government get a warrant before looking at Americans’ data. They said the FBI has a history of misusing the Section 702 data to investigate protesters, political donors, and people involved in the Capitol riot. But supporters of the law said the FBI has changed its ways and that adding a warrant requirement would ruin the tool.

The law also makes the government report more often to Congress about how it’s using the powers, and it lets congressional observers go to secret court hearings. The measure had support from both Republicans and Democrats, and it passed the House in a 273-147 vote.

Intelligence officials say Section 702 is a big part of U.S. spying, with almost 60% of the president’s daily security brief using information from it. They also said the law now lets the government gather data on drug smuggling cartels.

Written by Staff Reports

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