Throughout history, people of color and immigrants have had their freedom restricted in many ways in America. One of the ways has been surveillance technologies and laws that allowed the people in charge to use them on the minorities. Right now, the act that allows it is pending reauthorization from Congress. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) needs to be reformed so it doesn’t allow dragnet surveillance, backdoor searches of email and phone records, as well as unlawful targeting of communities of color and immigrants. Unless they make these changes, the provision should be let to expire.
Right now, section 702 allows warrantless surveillance of conversations between people in the US and foreign countries. This law was passed in 2008 while George W. Bush was president and then got extended during Obama’s presidency, and should expire at the end of this year, in case Trump’s office doesn’t reauthorize the provision, which is unlikely.
The explanation of the intrusive act is often shortened to the phrase that if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t be worried – but the history tells us otherwise. There have been many cases of the same groups being spied on for no apparent reason, like black and native citizens, immigrants, people from the poor communities and anyone and everyone that could be classified as “other” or a threat. Some of the most familiar cases of surveillance have happened to Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez, both tracked by FBI.
More recently, wherever there have been louder protests against the apparently unethical behavior of law officials, there has also been a rise of surveillance on the people. Freddie Gray’s murder in Baltimore and Black Lives Matter activists in Ferguson are just a couple of names on the long list. There has also been surveillance conducted on Muslim neighborhoods, community leaders and even mosques. it has been proven in the past that the country sees many people as threats, and with current things happening, it would mean that the majority of citizens would be put under surveillance.
Earlier this year, Trump’s homeland security and counterterrorism advisor Thomas Bossert spoke about Section 702 and said that the act forbids intentional targeting and that a court order is required in order to surveil citizens and foreigners in the US.
But the memos that have been recently declassified show that there have been violations during Obama’s presidency by the FBI and NSA, which proves that despite intentional targeting being forbidden, it didn’t stop it from happening many times in the past.
Immigrants are also at risk of being surveilled through Section 702 due so-called upstream monitoring, which allows communications with people outside the country to be monitored and searched for keywords of interest. This sums up to 84 million people in the US being at risk of their data being monitored.
Last month, two dozen civil rights and civil liberties groups sent a joined letter to the House Judiciary Committee recommending reforms to the provision. it has been proven in the past that when not restricted, intelligence programs often overstep the set boundaries for surveillance.