American Wiretapping Law FISA Permanently Extended for Two Years

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American intelligence services will be allowed to eavesdrop on communications networks again in the next two years. The Senate, following the House of Representatives, also agrees.

 

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, also known as FISA, gives intelligence services the power to tap domestic and foreign communications networks or servers without a court order. The law also covers companies, such as American cloud providers, and their data storage.

After previous approval in the House of Representatives, the US Senate also agreed. President Joe Biden has now signed the amended law, which will henceforth be known as the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act, or RISAA.

Restrictions removed
Some amendments were also proposed around the text of the law that would soften the measure somewhat, such as requiring proof of strong suspicions or limiting which telecommunications players are covered by the law. They were not approved.

This means that any service provider with access to equipment that can be used to transmit or store electronic communications could be forced by law to hand over those communications to U.S. emergency or intelligence services. So not only an American operator such as AT&T must cooperate, and companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Meta or Amazon.

New name, same content
Civil rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) points out that the name change from FISA to RISAA is quite ironic because it does not reform anything but mainly expands it to more people, with more companies that have to cooperate in the eavesdropping practices.

EFF also points out that although Americans may not be specifically targeted for eavesdropping, enormous amounts of data from Americans are still accidentally collected and searched. It also points out that there have been numerous examples of abuse by US intelligence agencies or individual personnel in the recent past.

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