Efforts to get U.S. intelligence agencies to adopt privacy reforms have largely failed, civil rights groups say. Without these changes, post-9/11 surveillance policy updates may be doomed.
Top U.S. intelligence officials met privately with more than a dozen civil liberties groups in Virginia yesterday to express concerns about domestic surveillance operations that an unlikely coalition of Democratic and Republican members of Congress have launched this summer. Critical review.
The closed-door meeting, held at the Liberty Crossing Intelligence Campus, a vast complex that houses much of the nation’s counterterrorism infrastructure, comes amid the FBI’s past abuses of powerful surveillance Tool’s actions sparked political outrage. (FBI). Republican lawmakers, still outraged by the FBI’s botched operation to spy on a former Trump campaign aide in the 2016 Russia investigation, have formed an unusual alliance with Democratic rivals who have long criticized the FBI “BTW” has no authority over Americans’ information. ” Information collected by spies while monitoring foreign threats.
The meeting, organized by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, was attended by senior officials from agencies including the National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone is believed to have attended the meeting, but neither the intelligence committee nor any source at the meeting confirmed or denied his attendance. (All sources cited pre-party rules in interviews with WIRED.)
Privacy and civil liberties advocates in attendance Thursday said one of their main goals was to bring to the attention of the Intelligence Community (IC) any reauthorization of its most powerful surveillance weapon, the IC, without major privacy reforms. FISA Section 702 efforts will be in vain. Action – would be a lost cause. The 9/11-era program, sometimes called the “crown jewel” of the U.S. intelligence community, is set to expire at the end of this year. Biden administration officials are privately encouraging lawmakers to pass a “clean bill” this winter, concerned that any potential surveillance lapses could pose a threat to national security, said congressional sources familiar with ongoing negotiations on the plan. Over the past decade, the 702 Program’s targets have expanded beyond terrorists in the Middle East and now include foreign cybersecurity threats linked to Iran, Russia, and China, as well as those involved in the production of fentanyl, a dangerous opioid ) are flooding the United States with drug traffickers. street.
The fate of the 702 program hangs in the balance, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are increasingly concerned about the FBI’s ability to exploit data on Americans that the intelligence community has long claimed was collected only inadvertently – a byproduct of a wide-ranging investigation. The communications of tens of thousands of people believed to be or perceived to be agents of hostile foreign powers are monitored each year. Limiting the bureau’s access to this data for domestic criminal investigations without first obtaining a court order remains one of the top reforms sought by critics of the intelligence agency on both sides of the aisle.
Sources who attended the meeting said the conversation was largely one-sided, with Haines and other intelligence officials viewing the event purely as an opportunity to witness the concerns of civil rights advocates. While no one expected a real back-and-forth discussion, some supporters still expressed frustration at the lack of reciprocity, with one bluntly describing it as a “handicap.” An IC spokesman said “listening sessions” where senior officials gather to witness the concerns of relevant civil society stakeholders were common and that generally the IC would not disclose the nature of its conversations with members of Parliament.
Thursday’s guests included privacy and national security experts from more than a dozen groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, the Center for Electronic Information Privacy and Demand for Progress. The largely progressive coalition also includes conservative nonprofits such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity. Also in attendance was Bob Goodlatte, the former Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who now serves as senior counsel at the nonprofit Privacy and Surveillance Accountability Project.
While Haines and some of her officials have expressed a willingness to tighten safeguards on intelligence collected “incidentally” on Americans, the intelligence committee has so far been unwilling to say what specific reforms, if any, it might be willing to pursue. In response, privacy advocates said they remain skeptical it is truly open to reform, adding that key sources on Capitol Hill remain unaware of any specific reforms the IC currently supports. In a letter ahead of the meeting, the advocates said they were imposing new limits on the scope of U.S. surveillance under federal law and closing a notorious loophole that allowed intelligence and law enforcement to pay data brokers Fees to bypass search warrant requests. Sensitive Data of Americans.
An internal consulting report declassified by Haines earlier this year described “massive” purchases of “sensitive and private information” about Americans from private companies, including data that would allow law enforcement to track Americans’ movements over time. The report acknowledges that much of the purchased data is generally protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which includes guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures. Various intelligence agencies, including the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, have taken the position that paying for access to sensitive data, rather than requiring access under criminal law proceedings, effectively negates this constitutional right.
Defenders of this particular collection method argue that the data is already widely available to private companies and even foreign intelligence agencies. Its critics point out that companies and foreign countries are not bound by the Fourth Amendment and lack the U.S. government’s power to arrest, fine and imprison U.S. residents.
Haynes and other officials were forced to reveal whether the administration had agreed on a single, consistent policy on commercial data purchases, the sources said. Currently, it is believed that U.S. spy agencies must alone determine the legality of such arrangements, a view overwhelmingly supported by declassified material over the past year. Sources said no IC officials would comment on whether such a policy existed, although Haines had previously told lawmakers that the process of developing one had been ongoing since early 2021.
A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said Haines had spoken Friday morning but could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a statement, members of the Privacy Alliance expressed their gratitude to Haynes for taking the time to listen to their concerns. Still, civil liberties experts said they were “deeply saddened” by the IC’s unwillingness to commit to any “meaningful reforms critical to protecting Americans’ privacy,” specifically citing the FBI’s misuse of 702-related data. “The government and the intelligence community must be willing to come to the table and embrace the important new privacy protections that advocates, Congress, and the American people are calling for,” they said.