Last week, a bipartisan group of representatives on the House Judiciary Committee arrived at an agreement to reauthorize Section 702 (which allows warrantless surveillance within loose guidelines) of FISA through 2023. The House-proposed extension would include some reforms, including the requirement of warrants to knowingly search US targets. However, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III wants a permanent and clean reauthorization, so much so that he staged a super-secret timeshare-style sales pitch to sell it to lawmakers. I wonder if anyone got the free gift? If 702 remains on the books, it will be no vacation for Americans, as the law has been used to collect wholly domestic communications through “about” searches. And how many of these searches include Americans, you wonder? Yeah, we don’t know and the government claims it doesn’t know either. Despite this broad discretion, the government has repeatedly not really told the truth to its own court about its violations of law in pursuing large-scale data collection. Of course, there is no publicly available evidence that possession of data collected under Sec. 702 has prevented any terrorist attack, but who knows what happens behind the scenes. One thing we do know: the concept of “privacy” seems more and more fictional these days.

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