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Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA): A Resource Page

The following Brennan Center and coalition resources provide detailed information on Section 702, how it has been used to gain warrantless access to Americans’ communications, proposals for reforming the law, and the ongoing 2023/2024 reauthorization process.

Last Updated: February 12, 2024
Published: November 29, 2023

In 2008, Congress enacted Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to expand the government’s capacity to conduct surveillance of suspected foreign terrorists. The law permits the National Security Agency to acquire the communications of almost any foreigner abroad without obtaining an individualized court order.

Although the surveillance may only be targeted at foreigners abroad, it inevitably sweeps in large amounts of Americans’ phone calls, texts, and emails. Congress and the FISA Court have attempted to limit the government’s access to these communications, but the government has engaged in widespread violations of these limits. To give just a few examples, the FBI has conducted warrantless searches of Section 702-acquired information to access communications of Black Lives Matter protestors, U.S. government officials, journalists, political commentators, and 19,000 donors to a single congressional campaign.

The following Brennan Center and coalition resources provide detailed information on Section 702, how it has been used to gain warrantless access to Americans’ communications, proposals for reforming the law, and the ongoing 2023/2024 reauthorization process. 

Resources

Coalition Letter Urging Congressional Leaders to Keep Section 702 Reauthorization Out of Continuing Resolution (February 28, 2023)

Vote “No” on Amendments to Expand Domestic Surveillance and Enact Patriot Act 2.0 (February 13, 2024)

“Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act” is Designed to Do Nothing (February 13, 2024)

Congress Must Close Data Broker Loophole by Prohibiting Government Purchases of Americans’ Sensitive Data (February 12, 2024)

Congress Must Close Back Door Search Loophole by Requiring Warrant/FISA Title I Order for U.S. Person Queries (February 12, 2024)

Section-by-Section: FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2023, S. 3351 (February 8, 2024)

Warner-Rubio FISA “Reform” Bill is Designed to Do Nothing (February 5, 2024)

The Protect Liberty Act: Sensible Surveillance Reform (December 19, 2023)

The Protect Liberty Act (Section 702): Myths and Facts (December 11, 2023)

FISA “Reform” and Reauthorization Act: The Biggest Expansion in Government Surveillance Since the Patriot Act (December 11, 2023)

FISA "Reform and Reauthorization Act: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (December 8, 2023)

Section 702 Backdoor Searches: Myths and Facts (November 28, 2023)

FISA Section 702: Civil Rights Abuses (November 27, 2023)

PCLOB Endorses Reforms to FISA Section 702 (October 11, 2023)

Analysis and Opinion

The House Intelligence Committee Blocks Crucial Surveillance Reform (Noah Chauvin; February 28, 2024)

What’s Next for Reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Elizabeth Goitein and Noah Chauvin; February 2, 2024)

Protecting Americans from Warrantless Surveillance (Elizabeth Goitein; December 6, 2023) 

The Year of Section 702 Reform, Part V: The HPSCI Majority FISA Working Group Report (Elizabeth Goitein and Noah Chauvin; Just Security; November 27, 2023)

The Year of Section 702 Reform, Part IV: The Government Surveillance Reform Act (Elizabeth Goitein and Noah Chauvin; Just Security; November 7, 2023)

Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board Embraces Surveillance Reforms (Noah Chauvin; October 12, 2023)

We Can Fight Fentanyl Trafficking Without Violating Americans’ Privacy (Noah Chauvin; The Hill; September 19, 2023)

The Year of Section 702 Reform, Part III: Why Congress Should Not Exempt Warrantless “Foreign Intelligence” Queries (Elizabeth Goitein; Just Security; July 27, 2023)

Surveillance Reforms Do Not Endanger Americans (Noah Chauvin; July 19, 2023)

The Coming Fight Over American Surveillance (Elizabeth Goitein; Foreign Affairs; June 6, 2023)

Congress Should Not Reauthorize Warrantless Surveillance of Americans (Noah Chauvin; The Hill; May 25, 2023)

The Year of Section 702 Reform, Part II: Closing the Gaps and Completing the Modernization of FISA (Elizabeth Goitein; Just Security; April 18, 2023)

The Year of Section 702 Reform, Part I: Backdoor Searches (Elizabeth Goitein; Just Security; February 13, 2023)

The Biden Administration’s SIGINT Executive Order, Part I: New Rules Leave Door Open to Bulk Surveillance (Elizabeth Goitein; Just Security; October 31, 2022)

Interviews and Panels

Briefing on FISA Section 702: What to Expect in the Coming Months (February 8, 2024)

Will No One Rid Us of This Warrantless Surveillance? (Elizabeth Goitein; Marketplace Tech; January 24, 2024)

Briefing on Section 702 Reauthorization Bills (December 11, 2023) 

Briefing for House Judiciary Committee Staff: FISA Section 702 and the Protect Liberty Act (December 5, 2023) 

Toward a Goldilocks Deal on FISA 702 Surveillance Reform (Just Security Podcast; December 4, 2023) 

A Controversial U.S. Surveillance Program Expires This Month. Will it Be Renewed? (Elizabeth Goitein; Marketplace Tech; December 4, 2023)  

Briefing for Congressional Staff: FISA Section 702 & the Government Surveillance Reform Act of 2023 (November 16, 2023)

Liza Goitein on National Security Law Today: Debating Section 702: National Security or Invasion of Privacy? With Liza Goitein (ABA National Security Law Today; October 3, 2023)

Surveillance Reform Prospects (Cato Institute Panel; June 6, 2023)

Coalition Statements, Testimonies, & Press Releases

Coalition Letter Urges Congressional Leaders to Keep Reauthorization of Section 702 out of NDAA (November 21, 2023)

House Intelligence Committee Circulating FISA Section 702 Surveillance Reform Bill; Brennan Center Reacts (November 15, 2023)

Coalition Statement Urges Senator Schumer to Keep Reauthorization of Section 702 Out of Continuing Resolution (November 13, 2023)

Government Surveillance Reform Bill Introduced in Congress; Brennan Center Reacts (October 27, 2023)

Civil Liberties Advocates’ Statement on PCLOB Section 702 Report (September 28, 2023)

Federal Oversight Board Recommends Reforms to Section 702 of FISA to Protect Americans’ Privacy (September 27, 2023)

Testimony on “Fixing FISA, Part II” Before the House Committee on the Judiciary (Elizabeth Goitein; July 14, 2023)

Bipartisan Coalition Reacts to FBI’s New Section 702 Procedures (June 13, 2023)

Bipartisan Coalition Responds to the FBI’s New Policies Under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Authority (June 13, 2023)

Coalition Statement Urges Congress to Reform Section 702 (June 12, 2023)

Ahead of Tomorrow’s Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, Organizations Submit Statement Urging Reform of Section 702 (June 12, 2023)

Coalition Document Proposes Reforms to Section 702 (February 2, 2023)

Brennan Center Submits Comments for PCLOB’s Oversight Project on Section 702 Surveillance (November 4, 2022)

Key Social Media Posts

X (formerly Twitter) thread on How Surveillance Under Section 702 Will Continue Until April 2024, Even if Section 702 Expires on Dec. 31st (@NoahChauvin; December 13, 2023) 

X (formerly Twitter) thread on How the HPSCI Bill is the Biggest Expansion of Surveillance Since the Patriot Act (@LizaGoitein; December 11, 2023) 

X (formerly Twitter) thread on House and Senate Leaders Attaching a “Short-term” Reauthorization of Section 702 to the NDAA (@LizaGoitein; December 6, 2023) 

X (formerly Twitter) thread on SSCI Bill to Reauthorize Section 702 (@LizaGoitein; November 29, 2023)

X (formerly Twitter) thread on the PCLOB FISA Section 702 Report (@LizaGoitein; October 12, 2023)

X (formerly Twitter) thread on Section 702 Reforms and Fentanyl (@NoahChauvin; September 19, 2023)

TikTok video on the Need for Privacy Reforms for Section 702 (Noah Chauvin; @brennancenter; August 1, 2023)

PCLOB Report on FISA Section 702: In the PCLOB’s Words (October 11, 2023)

PCLOB Report Reveals New Abuses of FISA Section 702 (October 11, 2023)