MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allowing for the surveillance of digital communications of foreigners overseas deprives non-US citizens of the right to privacy and due process protections, thus increasing the possibility of abuse, the lawyer, who led the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, told Sputnik.
In a letter dated September 7, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats wrote to US congressional members, calling on them to permanently reauthorize FISA, which is set to expire at the end of the year. The US officials stressed in a letter that FISA was vital to US national security.
On Tuesday, The New York Times newspaper reported citing a newly declassified document that in 2011, the NSA examined 45,359 intercepts gathered by the program in just 48 hours.
"The mere fact that an individual is not an American citizen does not in itself constitute a basis for surveillance, or for depriving them of their fundamental right to privacy. The act removes important due process protections from the surveillance of non-Americans, for example, the need for prior judicial authorization, and the right to seek a remedy. The covert and unchallengeable nature of such surveillance gives rise, in itself, to the possibility of abuse," Melinda Taylor said.
"This assessment should be made by an entity which has sufficient independence from the executive. There must also be adequate safeguards to protect individuals from the possibility of abuse… There should be effective judicial review as to the legality, proportionality and necessity of the surveillance," Taylor pointed out.
It would be fundamentally illegal to give intelligence services an open ended blank check to conduct surveillance against certain groups or entities, Taylor noted.
FISA was created in the 1970s to authorize electronic surveillance and physical search of persons engaged in espionage or international terrorism against the United States on behalf of foreign powers. The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 reportedly authorized a form of the warrantless surveillance program ex-US President George Bush's administration secretly created after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
In 2013, Edward Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency employee and former contractor for the US government, leaked classified documents exposing mass surveillance by US authorities around the globe. Russia granted the whistleblower a temporary asylum after he fled the United States.
The US classified documents revealed by Snowden prompted criticism from governments as well as human right advocates and activist groups doubting the US authorities' effectiveness in detecting terrorists. For example, just in December 2012, the US National Security Agency (NSA) gathered on an average day metadata from some 15 million telephone connections and 10 million Internet datasets in Europe, according to media reports citing the revealed documents.