Press Releases

House Undermines Americans’ Privacy, Extends Persistently Abused Surveillance Authority Section 702 in NDAA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives just voted to extend a controversial and persistently abused surveillance power, Section 702 of FISA, as part of the NDAA. 118 Representatives opposed the NDAA on this vote, falling short of the 145 necessary to stop its advancement under suspension of House rules.

Ahead of the vote, 54 members of Congress called for Section 702 to be removed from the NDAA, and both the House Freedom Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus have expressed their opposition to its inclusion. Additionally, when the Senate considered the NDAA yesterday, 35 of 41 Senators needed to strip this out of the NDAA opposed Section 702’s inclusion.

The broad, bipartisan support for ending warrantless surveillance has been made clear. Recent polling shows the vast majority of Americans support increased protections from government surveillance and the House Judiciary Committee voted 35-2 in support of major reforms to Section 702 that would protect Americans’ privacy.

Despite this support, the House overwhelmingly voted in opposition to the will of the American people, and jeopardized every American’s right to privacy by supporting an NDAA that includes an extension of Section 702 without reform.

In response to the NDAA’s passage, Demand Policy Director Sean Vitka issued the following statement: 

“Americans now know who stands for their privacy, and who is willing to kick the can on ‘persistent and widespread’ abuse of their Constitutional rights under FISA’s Section 702. Privacy champions in the House and Senate just demonstrated their commitment to fighting mass warrantless surveillance, and we commend their tremendous effort to stop this backroom maneuver by Congressional leadership. We now look into the new year to build on this formidable resistance, and to stop misuse of foreign intelligence to spy on Americans. This will be back on the House and Senate floors before April 19.”

A temporary extension of Section 702, like the one included in the NDAA, is entirely unnecessary and paves the way for a sixteen-month extension. The government is currently conducting Section 702 surveillance under a annual FISA Court certification that expires in April 2024. Per Section 404 of the FISA  Amendments Act of 2008, such certifications remain valid until their expiration, notwithstanding any other provision of law. Therefore, as government officials acknowledged during the last reauthorization cycle and during this one, the government’s ability to conduct surveillance will continue into 2024 even if Section 702 expires in December. Our coalition has made clear and communicated to Congressional leaders for weeks that any temporary extension in the NDAA should have language capping new FISA Court certifications in early 2024 to ensure that the government cannot use an extension to get new, year-long certifications, turning an ostensible short-term reauthorization into a sixteen-month punt.