Abolish Section 702

There should be no future for Section 702, an enduring vestige of the post-9/11 security state. To kill it, all Congress has to do is do nothing.

Abolish Section 702

Edited by The Nation

IN 2008, a bipartisan Congress took a sledgehammer to the Constitution. The FISA Amendments Act codified what the Bush administration had been doing illegally after 9/11: collecting Americans’ international communications data on a massive scale, without anything resembling individualized suspicion of a crime, let alone a warrant.

With Congress’s blessing, the National Security Agency siphoned user data from the servers of tech giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook under a program called PRISM; for data in transit between servers, it used a method called upstream collection. What the NSA amassed, it could share with other intelligence agencies, including the FBI. Armed with a few keywords, the FBI could query a database of unfathomable and ever-growing size, bypassing the centuries-old warrant requirements that are a basic bulwark against tyranny. The statutory authority that the new law created for the NSA’s surveillance panopticon is known as Section 702, for its place within the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Section 702 is among the enduring abuses of the War on Terror: Fifteen years on, the FBI is using the post-9/11 surveillance apparatus against constitutionally protected demands to end institutionalized racism. A partially declassified order from the secret surveillance panel known as the FISA Court recently revealed that the FBI used 702 to spy on the racial justice demonstrations of summer 2020. There should be no future for Section 702 after this latest lesson in how the War on Terror empowered the most noxious currents in American history.