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(LifeSiteNews) — U.S. President Joe Biden has quietly signed legislation reauthorizing and expanding the government’s ability to spy on American communications without a warrant.

On April 20, Biden signed the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that allows the government to compel a broader range of businesses to collect the communications of U.S. citizens when they are in contact with foreigners, according to legal experts. 

The newly passed, updated version of Section 702 accomplishes this by expanding the definition of “electronic communication service providers” who can receive FISA directives to tap communications by dropping the qualifier “communication” from electronic service providers. The new amendment, therefore, makes access merely to equipment on which communications are carried or stored enough to legally surveil Americans.

While the amendment lists types of businesses that cannot be considered Electronic Communication Service Providers (ECSPs), including public accommodations, dwellings, and restaurants, ZwillGenBlog points out that the law still allows the government to “compel the assistance of a wide range of additional entities and persons in conducting surveillance under FISA 702.”

“The breadth of the new definition is obvious from the fact that the drafters felt compelled to exclude such ordinary places such as senior centers, hotels, and coffee shops. But for these specific exceptions, the scope of the new definition would cover them – and scores of businesses that did not receive a specific exemption remain within its purview,” ZwillGenBlog explained.

The legal experts noted that among the entities that could be forced to surveil Americans under the amendment are “the owners and operators of facilities that house equipment used to store or carry data, such as data centers and buildings owned by commercial landlords,” as well as others who can access such equipment, including “delivery personnel, cleaning contractors, and utility providers.”

ZwillGenBlog also pointed out that “any U.S. business could have its communications” – if involving a foreigner – “tapped by a landlord with access to office wiring, or the data centers where their computers reside.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois had tried and failed to pass an amendment that would require government officials to obtain a warrant before spying on American communications, according to the Associated Press (AP).

“If the government wants to spy on my private communications or the private communications of any American, they should be required to get approval from a judge, just as our Founding Fathers intended in writing the Constitution,” Durbin said.

Critics of the new amendment warn that over the past year alone the FBI has unconstitutionally spied on Americans, including Republican U.S. Rep. Darin Lahood of Illinois, who serves on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, as well as Americans present at or near the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 2008, the National Security Agency (NSA), operating inside the United States, is authorized to collect communications of foreigners overseas for foreign intelligence purposes without a warrant “because courts have held that foreigners have no Fourth Amendment rights,” according to Elizabeth Goitein.

“Although ostensibly targeted at foreigners, Section 702 surveillance inevitably sweeps in massive amounts of Americans’ communications,” Goitein further noted.

“Recognizing the impact on Americans’ privacy, Congress required the NSA to ‘minimize’ the sharing, retention, and use of this ‘incidentally’ collected U.S. person data. But the government and the FISA Court have embraced an interpretation of ‘minimize’ that is remarkably… maximal.”

“The NSA shares raw data with multiple other agencies – including the FBI and the CIA – and all of them retain the data for a functional minimum of five years. Moreover, the FBI routinely combs through it looking for Americans’ communications to use in purely domestic cases, even in situations where the FBI lacks a factual predicate to open a full investigation,” Goitein continued.

There are other means by which the U.S. government can spy on Americans. In 2022, Biden issued an executive order (EO) that allows the government to surveil Americans for broadly defined reasons including understanding “public health risks,” “political instability,” and the “threat” of climate change.

The EO was ostensibly written to “enhanc[e] safeguards” for “United States Signals Intelligence Activities,” which is intelligence gathering by the interception of signals, including communications, such as through cell phones, or those not used in communication. An accompanying fact sheet explains that the EO is meant to help “implement the U.S. commitments under the European Union-U.S. Data Privacy Framework (EU-U.S. DPF)” in an effort to “restore trust and stability” to transatlantic data flows. 

Alongside permitting spying for the purposes of sizing up the capabilities of foreign entities, the EO permits signals intelligence collection for “understanding or assessing transnational threats that impact global security, including climate and other ecological change, public health risks, humanitarian threats, political instability, and geographic rivalry.”

The document’s lack of elaboration on such so-called “transnational threats” raises the question of the true scope of activity now officially subject to spying by the U.S. government, which is potentially massive.