Demand Progress Commends Sen. Feinstein for Calling for Stop to Warrantless Surveillance of Americans Under Section 702

Will Sen. Warner and Rep. Schiff meet the Feinstein litmus test?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Daniel Schuman, policy director, [email protected], 240-237-3930

WASHINGTON, DC—Longtime surveillance hawk and former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) yesterday afternoon renewed her call to require the government to obtain a probable cause warrant before accessing the contents of communications under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law set to expire at the end of the year and whose reauthorization is subject to ongoing debate.

The government’s re-accessing of the contents of Americans’ electronic communications under a law intended to surveil foreign communications for foreign intelligence purposes is, in her view, unconstitutional. 

Turning to the various bills offered to reauthorize Section 702, Sen Feinstein said: “I believe the Supreme Court has been clear that in order to access the content of an American’s communications, the government is required to get a probable cause warrant. The same standard should apply to Section 702.” She released the text of an amendment she offered to accomplish that.

Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress, said: “Sen. Feinstein is to be applauded for her call to end to warrantless surveillance of the contents of Americans’ communications under Section 702. While we believe the law should go further to protect metadata and address other privacy concerns, Sen. Feinstein’s probable cause warrant standard is a litmus test for any legislation considered by the House or Senate.

He added: “When Sen. Feinstein, known for her hawkish views and close relationship with the Intelligence Community, vocally supports a probable cause warrant in legislation to reauthorize Section 702, we must ask why Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) would entrust President Trump—an erratic and dangerous president—with these broad powers without having our courts make this determination as is appropriate in our system of checks and balances.

Demand Progress, as part of a coalition of 43 organizations, endorsed the USA RIGHTS Act—a strong surveillance reform bill introduced in the Senate by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and 13 others and in the House by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)—in part because it closes the “backdoor search loophole” that the government has used to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans’ communications. 27 organizations, including Demand Progress, said the House Judiciary Committee must close the backdoor search loophole when it marks up the USA LIBERTY Act, otherwise they would oppose that legislation in committee.

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