National Security or COINTELPRO 2.0?

Photo Credit: AP News

Today Christopher Wray, FBI director faced off against the House Judiciary Committee on bipartisan concerns regarding fourth amendment rights. By the meetings break, Wray’s lackluster defense was complimented by somewhat nebulous and vague assertations that really didn’t seem to nearly broach the subject of how personal data is used at large in the United States. The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee is Wray’s first congressional testimony since Trump was indicted last month on 37 charges of mishandling national security documents and obstructing government efforts to recover them. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Topics of the meeting included the Steele Dossier, the Durham Report, social media FBI colusion in cohersive political tactics and supression, the misuse of the FOIA database as law enforcement database, Carpenter v US, and even the use of a Catholic priest as an informant. What was not covered in detail was the source of the data and how accessable that data should be by law. The issue with privacy has been a non-issue since the Patriot Act. It has assisted law enforcement and the Federal Government with protecting the freedoms and lives of American citizens but, on that same coin, it has created a tool of oppurtunity. One driven without concern for the interests of law abiding citizens.

The political debates surrounding the FBI come at a difficult time for the bureau’s policy goals – chief among them efforts to get Congress to reauthorize a key surveillance authority known as Section 702 of FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. FISA has been repeatedly amended since the September 11 attacks, with several added provisions garnering political and public controversy due to privacy concerns. Internal reviews have found significant failures and misuses of the digital data collection program in recent years, and conservatives in particular have vowed to not renew the program when it expires at the end of the year.

Sec. 802 of the Patriot Act, now titled USA Freedom Act, defines “domestic terrorism” to include “any act that could involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State.” It seems that this description covers the bases enough to be a substantial basis for legal protocal in national defense.

FISA, unlike the Patriot Act, covers international crime and terrorism. A jurisdiction already covered by the C.I.A. Regardless of where does the US stands in criminality and resilliance, clearcut and simplified regulation seems more forthright than complex bills that leave more open to subgectiviy or interpretation. Data collection is complex and technological failsafes could be implemented in the future to ensure maximum integnity across the board. For now, ironically, it seems that with such ease of access to personal data there seems to be less of a clear picture of what this data is being used for.

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