April 22, 2024
Biden Approves Alarming Surveillance Bill
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Biden Approves Alarming Surveillance Bill

President Joe Biden has approved a contentious bill expanding surveillance powers for U.S. government agencies, sparking concerns about potential infringements on American citizens’ privacy rights.

Legislative Approval and Justifications

The U.S. Senate voted 60–34 on April 20 to pass a bill extending and amending Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for an additional two years. President Biden signed the bill into law a day later. Advocates of the legislation, including President Biden and bipartisan members of Congress, argue that it is crucial for counter-terrorism efforts and national security interests.

According to Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the bill’s expiration would pose dangers to national security. Schumer emphasized the significance of FISA in aiding law enforcement’s efforts to combat terrorist activities, drug trafficking, and violent extremism.

Critics’ Concerns

However, critics argue that the bill’s reauthorization and amendment will lead to increased surveillance and expanded spying powers granted to government agencies, including the National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Source: Elizabeth Goitein

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, criticized lawmakers who supported the bill, accusing them of compromising American civil liberties. Goitein highlighted a provision granting the NSA access to communications equipment from various U.S. businesses and organizations, raising concerns about potential misuse of political surveillance. wrote Goitein.

“This is a shameful moment in the history of the United States Congress.”

Expanding Surveillance Powers

The bill enables U.S. agencies, such as the NSA, to compel internet service providers like Google and Verizon to disclose sensitive data regarding their targets. With President Biden’s signature, the government gains broader surveillance capabilities, extending beyond current scopes to involve numerous companies and individuals providing internet-related services.

Despite initial pushback from privacy-conscious Republicans and Democrats, the bill passed through the House of Representatives on April 13. An amendment proposing warrants for all internet-based surveillance was narrowly rejected in the House.

Reactions and Opposition

Former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden criticized the reauthorization of FISA Section 702, characterizing it as a significant loss for American liberties and questioning its constitutionality.

Senator Ron Wyden characterized the bill as a significant and concerning increase in government surveillance power throughout history.


President Biden’s approval of the surveillance bill marks a significant development in U.S. surveillance policy. While proponents argue for its necessity in national security efforts, critics raise concerns about potential infringements on civil liberties and expanded government surveillance powers. The passage of the bill highlights ongoing debates regarding the balance between security measures and privacy rights in the digital age.

Image by Flickr

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