By Andres Del Aguila
WASHINGTON – Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) criticized the potential reauthorization of the nation’s foreign spying program, calling its privacy protections inadequate.
“The question … is making sure that in reauthorizing this bill, which is the top priority of the intelligence community, the intelligence leadership doesn’t do it and run on the constitution as it relates to collecting data on law-abiding Americans,” Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Monday night to a packed auditorium at George Washington University.
Congress has until Dec. 31 to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act section 702, through 2025. The bill permits the National Security Agency to collect information on foreign targets that pose a threat to the United States.
In a September letter urging Congress to reauthorize FISA section 702, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats called the spying program “vital to protect the nation against international terrorism and threats.”
“Title VII of FISA allows the Intelligence Community, under a robust regime of oversight by all three branches of Government, to collect vital information about international terrorists, cyber actors, individuals and entities engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other important foreign intelligence targets located outside the United States,” they told Congressional leaders.
The program came under fire in 2013 when Edward Snowden uncovered the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata on U.S. citizens and disclosed the information on WikiLeaks. Snowden’s U.S. passport was revoked shortly thereafter while he was overseas and he has been in hiding since that time.
The Senate Intelligence Committee amended the bill in October, requiring the FBI to gain authorization from a secret FISA court to search for information concerning U.S. citizens.
Wyden argued the bill should solely be used for foreign intelligence collection. He said that American citizens will inevitably be spied on.
“As telecommunications systems increasingly are globally integrated, more and more law-abiding Americans are going to be swept up in the searches,” he said.
Wyden called on college students to be the “Paul Revere” and voice their opposition against the current bill.
Paul echoed Wyden’s argument, saying “we should not give up on the constitution.”
He said the government is “absolutely” using FISA section 702 for domestic spying.
“You shouldn’t be allowed to be convicted of a domestic crime using a less-than-constitutional standard to collect the information,” Paul said.
Paul championed the Fourth Amendment, arguing that domestic searches should only be authorized when a court proves probable cause.
Wyden and Paul are sponsoring the USA Rights Act, a bill aimed at amending FISA to bolster privacy protection and upholding Fourth Amendment rights.
“No communication to or from, or information about, a person acquired under section 702 who is either a United States person or is located in the United States may be introduced as evidence against the person in any criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding or used as part of any criminal, civil, or administrative investigation, except with the prior approval of the Attorney General,” the bill says.