The Patriot Act 2.0

Edward Snowden has called the recent renewal of FISA 702, “the biggest encroachment on your privacy rights since the Patriot Act.”

In the middle of the night, in secret, the US Senate voted to renew FISA Section 702 as a part of a broader bill called the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act (RISSA) H.R.7888.

The bill had passed through the House the week prior and was set to be voted on Wednesday but the vote was delayed. As Friday came and went, it appeared that we, the People, might have another weekend to rally against the Senate vote.

Alas, Americans woke up Saturday morning to find that the vote had taken place overnight and was signed into law over the weekend.

Mainstream Media would have you believe that the bill is vital for National Security and that the United States was in immediate and dire need of warrantless spying powers. The NY Times published an article titled, “Government Surveillance Keeps Us Safe.”

There is, of course, much more to the story.

Many members of the Senate were told by the House Intelligence Committee that the urgent vote was vital for national security but they were not told that FISA had already granted approval for Section 702 surveillance to continue until April 2025, even if the bill expired. The vote was held under the pretense of a blatant lie.

Warrantless spying not only lives on, it expands.

Liza Goitein is the Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice and has been following the renewal closely.

The bill didn’t just renew the FISA provision, which provides targeted warrantless spying powers to the administrative state, it also greatly expanded those powers by changing a few key definitions.

The amended provision will allow the government to require everyday Americans and regular businesses to spy on fellow citizens, effectively turning everyone into a spy. With the new provision in place, FISA courts can now compel anyone with access to communications equipment to cooperate with the NSA in collecting messages and communications. Previously the statute only authorized the collection of data and communications stored by U.S. internet service providers like Google, Facebook and Microsoft or telecom providers such as AT&T and Verizon.

With the new rules in place, nearly anyone, with few exceptions, can be compelled to access and turn over your data, giving US intelligence agencies extensive new powers.

Senator Ron Wyden, addressing the Senate floor, points out that the new powers could “for example, by forcing an employee to insert a USB thumb drive into a server at an office they clean or guard at night.”

It must be considered how bitcoin and crypto companies could now be compelled to turn over full access to their records of every transaction ever facilitated. While such access already exists under BSA regulations there are still some checks and balances in place providing transparency to the process. This is not the case within the FISA court process. Furthermore, a case potentially could be made that the new regulations define node runners as facilitators of communication, opening up anyone running a bitcoin node to the threat of participation with the secret courts.

The RISAA renewal of FISA Section 702 not only abolishes the Fourth Amendment rights of US Citizens, it is also being used to bypass First Amendment rights. A report from 2023, for example, showed that the FBI used Section 702 to spy on protestors and journalists. And that the FBI abused the authority of Section 702 over 300,000 throughout 2020 and 2021.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, FISA, was originally enacted to “provide judicial and congressional oversight of foreign intelligence surveillance activities while maintaining the secrecy necessary to effectively monitor national security threats.” BJA

The USA Patriot Act, first passed in 2001 and reauthorized in 2006, expanded FISA to allow the government to obtain the personal records of ordinary Americans from libraries and Internet Service Providers, even when they have no connection to terrorism.

Section 702 is a key provision of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

The 2024 renewal of FISA Section 702 extends the provision for two years, under the new definitions. It’s vital that anyone who cares about their right to privacy or about our First and Fourth Amendment rights as citizens of the United States make their voices heard so that when the time comes to renew the act, it cannot be done in the shadows of the night.

This is a guest post by Michelle Weekley. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.