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Secrecy Concerns Mount Over Spy Powers Targeting U.S. Data Centers

Digital rights groups are demanding the U.S. declassify some records

Last month, President Joe Biden signed a surveillance bill enhancing the National Security Agency’s (NSA) power to compel U.S. businesses to wiretap communications going in and out of the country. The changes to the law have left legal experts largely in the dark as to the true limits of this new authority, chiefly when it comes to the types of companies that could be affected. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and organizations like it say the bill has rendered the statutory language governing the limits of a powerful wiretap tool overly vague, potentially subjecting large swaths of corporate America to warrantless and secretive surveillance practices.

In April, Congress rushed to extend the U.S. intelligence system’s "crown jewel," Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The spy program allows the NSA to wiretap calls and messages between Americans and foreigners abroad—so long as the foreigner is the individual being "targeted" and the intercept serves a significant "foreign intelligence" purpose. Since 2008, the program has been limited to a subset of businesses that the law calls “electronic communications service providers,” or ECSPs—corporations such as Microsoft and Google, which provide email services, and phone companies like AT&T and Sprint.

In recent years, the government has worked quietly to redefine what it means to be an ECSP in an attempt to extend the NSA’s reach, first unilaterally and now with Congress’ backing. The issue remains that the bill Biden signed last month contains murky language that attempts to redefine the scope of a critical surveillance program. In response, a coalition of digital rights organizations, including the Brennan Center for Justice to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is pressing the U.S. attorney general, Merrick Garland, and the nation’s top spy, Avril Haines, to declassify details about a relevant court case that could, they say, shed much-needed light on the situation.

Please select this link to read the complete article from WIRED.

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