Press Releases

Newly Declassified Opinion Reveals Continued Abuse of FISA Section 702 to Spy on BLM Arrestees, Jan. 6 Suspects, Political Donors, Imperiling Reauthorization

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just now, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released declassified opinion from the FISA Court, which describes previously unknown abuses of the controversial FISA surveillance law known as “Section 702.”

In response, Sean Vitka, senior policy counsel at Demand Progress, issued the following statement:

“This newly revealed abuse of Section 702 surveillance is shocking and unmatched since the days of J. Edgar Hoover. For the FBI to misuse Section 702 to spy on people protesting the killing of George Floyd, political donors, and victims of crimes is an unspeakable abuse of trust. Congress must enact comprehensive privacy protections for people in the United States, against all forms of warrantless surveillance, or Section 702 must fall. If the administration wants to see this law survive in any form, it should publicly embrace this reality.”

Section 702 will expire at the end of 2023 unless Congress reauthorizes it, which has produced the ongoing, fiery national debate over the law’s potential renewal and created a generational opportunity to secure comprehensive privacy protections for Americans.

A bipartisan coalition, including both the powerful House Freedom and Congressional Progressive Caucuses, has made clear that reauthorization of Section 702 is a non-starter unless paired with an “overhaul of privacy protections for Americans,” said Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Warren Davidson (R-OH). These protections must reach beyond Section 702 and into surveillance that occurs completely outside of judicial authorization and Congressional oversight, under “claims of inherent executive authority,” or any new privacy protections will effectively be optional. In launching the Fourth Amendment Caucus, long-standing privacy champions Representatives Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) similarly centered the need to close the “data broker loophole,” through which government agencies at all levels are now purchasing Fourth Amendment-protected information about Americans, including our location, without warrants.

The release of these alarming abuses on a Friday afternoon is part of a continued effort by the government to bury these stories.

For background on the FBI and NSA’s widespread violations and institutional lack of candor regarding Section 702, please reference the following documents:

Selected Section 702 Violations on the Record

Timeline of Selected Legal and Constitutional Violations in Programs Operated under Section 702

Additional coalition resources