01:21 GMT02 April 2020
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    The first hearing of the House Judiciary Committee regarding the controversial NSA programs to spy on American citizens will convene next week -- but, perhaps expectedly, the meetings will be classified and will be held in secret.

    The hearing will focus on PRISM and Upstream, two programs revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. They are said to have been legal under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008, which lapses next year, the Intercept reported.

    The fact that this hearing will be held in secret has led to great dismay among government accountability groups, 26 of whom signed an open letter to the committee in protest, including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the EFF, and Restore the 4th.

    “We urge you to change the designation of your upcoming session on Section 702 to ‘open,’ consistent with Congress's constitutional oversight role, longstanding congressional practice, and principles of transparency and justice,” the letter states.

    The letter argues that by classifying the meeting, it continues the trend of secrecy that has had allowed for the abuses in the first place.

    “It continues the excessive secrecy that has contributed to the surveillance abuses we have seen in recent years and to their adverse effects upon both our civil liberties and economic growth.”

    The programs allow for the warrantless interception of phone calls, Skype calls, Facebook messages, and other communications to be swept up, searched, and read by the NSA, and has been widely protested as a violation of privacy.

    “The warrantless surveillance conducted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is arguably worse than the collection of records authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said in a statement to the Intercept. “Unfortunately, closed committee sessions and insufficient congressional oversight contributed to the evolution of our unconstitutional surveillance state. Moving forward, it is imperative that Congress approach Section 702 reform as openly as possible.”


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