This is, unfortunately, no surprise at all. It happens every time that a key surveillance provision is set to sunset. Rather than have any real public debate about it, the “surveillance hawks” in Congress refuse to do anything until there are just weeks left until the provision would expire… and then try to ram through a renewal. And, indeed, that’s exactly what’s happening. While people who are concerned about these surveillance powers have been urging debate on possible reform for basically two years, Congress has mostly ignored all such requests. Instead, they pushed for a very weak “reform” bill… and then did nothing about it for months. And now, they apparently announced just last week a plan to vote on a toothless bill today. No debate, no notice, no discussion. As EFF notes, this bill is bad:
As we wrote, the bill, originally introduced by Chairman Devin Nunes before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, “allows warrantless search of American communications, expands how collected data can be used, and treats constitutional protections as voluntary.”
The bill would create an easy path for the NSA to restart an invasive type of surveillance (called “about” searches) that the agency voluntarily ended earlier this year because of criticisms from the FISA court. It would also give FBI agents the power to decide whether or not to seek a warrant to read American communications collected under Section 702.
Of course, it’s particularly ridiculous that it’s Nunes pushing for this broad renewal of Section 702. While he has a very long history of actively misleading the public about what the NSA can actually do, he was also the one who flipped out when he found out that Section 702 was used (legally under the law) to conduct surveillance that swept in the communications of General Mike Flynn’s calls with Russians. And yet, here he is, making sure that that power continues, without restrictions, suggesting that maybe (just maybe) his public wailing about the surveillance on Flynn was political theater, rather than legitimate concern….
How long can they keep lying in public without consequences to their political careers? As long as we have an oppressive lying media.