Opinion: For Sun-Times Editorial Board, No Warrant, No Surveillance, No Exceptions

Posted on November 19, 2017

This week the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board took a firm stance against warrantless surveillance against American citizens, specifically that which is tolerated under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The legislation, which is under consideration for renewal by Congress before its expiration at the end of this year, permits the NSA to scoop up communication data of US citizens who communicate with foreigners. More alarmingly, the editorial team notes, is that the FBI routinely avails itself of this NSA program’s data on Americans, thereby evading the normal court approval that would attend a search warrant if the FBI were to seek the same data itself. 

The Sun-Times also astutely points out that the NSA cannot be trusted to safely retain Americans’ personal data–which in this case is collected incidentally to explicitly targeted foreigners’ data–as the Shadow Brokers’ theft of the agency’s most elite hacking tools has demonstrated their inability to guard even their most cherished secrets. sanctioned programs. The editorial omits one crucial point: as the EFF points out, this collection is not truly incidental but actually intentional

Additionally, while the editorial staff remarks that the leading, establishment-backed reauthorization bill does not meaningfully reform the surveillance permitted under Section 702, a competing reform bill introduced by Senator Ron Wyden and backed by Senators Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren would drastically scale back the NSA spying under FISA’s auspices.

Even so, the Sun-Times piece makes a strong case against a simple, uncontested renewal of the program and calls upon Congress “to do its job,” a commendable step for a major publication in one of the nation’s most populous cities. 

You can read the full piece from the Chicago Sun-Times here

Jonathan Terrasi has been a Research Assistant with the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights since January 2017. His interests include computer security, encryption, history, and philosophy. In his writing, he regularly covers topics on current affairs and political developments, as well as technical analyses and guides on security issues, published on his blog, Cymatic Scanning, and Linux Insider.