Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and Edward Snowden all have reason to cheer the recent win for privacy.
On Friday, the NSA announced that it would end the controversial practice of collecting communications of U.S. citizens who are incidentally swept up in surveillance of individuals overseas. This practice was allowed under the controversial FISA 702, which was a product of the expansion of national security powers following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
While officials claim that this development is unrelated to the recent drama surrounding the Trump wiretap claims, those claims certainly brought this surveillance practice into the national dialogue, as those accusations led to revelations that Trump could have been swept up in overseas wiretaps. At that time, Sen. Rand Paul commented on FISA 702, explaining:
"The way it works is, the FISA court, through Section 702, wiretaps foreigners and then [NSA] listens to Americans. It is a backdoor search of Americans. And because they have so much data, they can tap — type Donald Trump into their vast resources of people they are tapping overseas, and they get all of his phone calls."
Many felt that this practice violated the Fourth Amendment, but it was ultimately discarded following "a discovery that N.S.A. analysts had violated rules imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court barring any searching for Americans’ information in certain messages captured through such wiretapping."
Some have praised the decision to halt this practice, while some claim that it doesn't go far enough.
Among those who have lauded the decision are Gabbard and Snowden. Snowden's 2013 leaks led to the initial reveal of these practices. He called the change "likely the most substantive of the post-2013 NSA reforms, if the principle is applied to all other programs."
Gabbard released this statement regarding the change:
“For years, Americans have been kept in the dark about our government's unconstitutional collection of their personal communications and data in the name of national security. This change in NSA policy is an important step in the right direction. In order to ensure we do not backtrack on this progress, I will be introducing legislation to permanently codify this policy change to permanently ban this privacy-invading collection."
We will be watching to see what kind of legislation Gabbard introduces, and what it might mean for the future of surveillance and privacy in America.