As early as next month, U.S. intelligence agencies will report to Congress and Congress will share with the public the federal government's best estimate of how many Americans have been affected by online surveillance programs nominally intended to monitor only foreigners.
This data will arrive as Congress debates the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 2008, which details "Procedures for Targeting Certain Persons Outside the United States Other Than United States Persons." "The timely production of this information is incredibly important to informed debate on Section 702 in the next Congress," said a bipartisan letter from 11 members of the House Judiciary Committee seen by Reuters Friday, "and, without it, even those of us inclined to support reauthorization would have reason for concern."
The federal government previously argued it would be impossible to make this estimate, and that doing so might involve additional privacy invasions beyond the ones being calculated. The surveillance in question occurred without a particular warrant authorizing targeting of U.S. citizens, as required by the Fourth Amendment. Section 702 provides for two such surveillance programs first exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.