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Small US Businesses to be Forced to Serve as NSA Spies

Call your Senators now and tell them to block the "Everyone is a spy" surveillance bill

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was enacted to make it easier for the government to address foreign terrorist threats. Targeting Americans is prohibited but intelligence agencies have used Section 702 to spy on hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. And this week it’s looking to get a lot worse.

Elizabeth Goitein of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, does a great job of explaining it and sounding the alarm.

Buried in the Section 702 re-authorization bill passed by the House on Friday is the biggest expansion of domestic surveillance since the Patriot Act.

Under current law, the government can compel “electronic communications service providers” that have direct access to communications to assist the NSA in conducting Section 702 surveillance. Companies like Verizon and Google must turn over the communications of targets, which officially must be foreigners overseas, but this has been abused to spy on Americans.

By changing the definition of “electronic communications surveillance provider,” an amendment offered by House intel committee leaders and passed by the House vastly expands the universe of entities that can be compelled to assist the NSA.

If the bill becomes law, any company or individual that provides any service whatsoever may be forced to assist in NSA surveillance, as long as they have access to equipment on which communications are transmitted or stored.

When the amendment was first unveiled, civil liberties advocates noted that the provision would encompass hotels, libraries, and coffee shops, and so they were excluded. But the vast majority of U.S. businesses remain fair game. Including barber shops, laundromats, fitness centers, hardware stores, and any small business that provides wifi to their customers via routers.

It also includes commercial landlords that rent out offices. Which would target journalists, lawyers, financial advisors, health care providers, and anyone renting commercial office space.

The amendment even includes service providers who come into our homes. Such as house cleaners, plumbers, and IT services providers. All of whom could be forced to serve as surrogate spies and be required to give the NSA direct access. And none of them would be allowed to tell anyone. They would be under a gag order, and would face heavy penalties if they failed to comply.

Having wholesale access to domestic communications, the NSA would then be on the “honor system” to retain only the communications of approved foreign targets. And we know from past experience that they can not be trusted to do this.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill this week.

Section 702 expires on April 19, but the Biden administration has obtained FISA Court approval to continue Section 702 surveillance until April of 2025.

Call your Senators now and tell them to block the "Everyone is a spy" surveillance bill.

The Reese Report
The Sunday afternoon podcast with Greg Reese
Weekly commentary and interviews on important current events