Joe Biden administration faces public skepticism over renewal of surveillance law

Joe Biden

10th June 2023 – (Washington) The Joe Biden administration is facing public skepticism as it pushes to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a law that authorises major surveillance programs. The law allows US spy agencies to collect large amounts of foreign communications for intelligence purposes, including listening in on allies and foes and stopping spies. However, it also sweeps up US citizen communications that can be searched by intelligence and law enforcement officers.

Congress will debate the renewal of Section 702 in the coming months, and the Biden administration will have to address concerns from a public that is broadly skeptical of common intelligence practices and of the need to sacrifice civil liberties for security.

A recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that both Democrats and Republicans have similar views on surveillance tactics. However, Republicans have become less likely over the last decade to say that it is at least sometimes necessary to sacrifice freedom in response to threats.

Despite public skepticism, U.S. intelligence officials maintain that Section 702 is necessary to protect national security. They credit the program with better informing US diplomats and enabling operations such as the strike to kill a key plotter of the 11th September, 2001 terrorist attacks.

However, critics argue that Section 702 poses a threat to civil liberties and privacy rights. They contend that the program’s broad reach allows for the collection of vast amounts of personal data, including that of innocent Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

The debate over Section 702 highlights the tension between national security and civil liberties in the United States. While many Americans support efforts to protect national security, they are also concerned about the potential for abuse and the erosion of their constitutional rights.