Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Pressures Congress to Expand Top-Secret Eavesdropping Program

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), alongside fellow members of the U.S. intelligence community, is pushing Congress to expand Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to fight the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Section 702 “Authorizes the government to collect the communications of non-Americans located abroad without a warrant from a court. While this surveillance is supposed to target foreigners, it inevitably sweeps in Americans’ private phone calls, emails, and text messages too.”

According to USA Today, high-ranking CIA officials spent most of 2023-2024 urging Congress members to renew Section 702 of the FISA Act of 1978.

However, CIA officials assert that as it stands, Section 702 restricts the intelligence community’s ability to target all players in the fentanyl trade abroad. They are urging lawmakers to expand Section 702, granting greater latitude to U.S. spies in their efforts to combat criminals involved in the fentanyl trade.

Still, many lawmakers are hesitant to expand Section 702 because of the CIA’s past misuse of the law for spying on American citizens.

As reported by USA Today:

The CIA and broader U.S. intelligence community want to do more to fight the fentanyl crisis killing tens of thousands of Americans a year, and they are quietly pushing Congress to let them expand their use of a controversial and top-secret eavesdropping program to do it, USA TODAY has learned.

Senior intelligence officials have spent the past year trekking to Capitol Hill to push for reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which allows them to conduct warrantless eavesdropping on foreigners overseas.

As the nation’s primary spy outfit, the Central Intelligence Agency in particular says the intelligence collection allowed under Section 702 is urgently needed to thwart transnational organized crime groups manufacturing and smuggling the lethally potent synthetic opioid from China to Mexico and into the U.S.

Currently, the CIA can only use Section 702 against drug traffickers if it can connect them to one of the three “certified” threat groups. Obtaining a so-called “fourth certification” would allow U.S. spies to more freely go after those involved in the fentanyl trade without having to make such connections, the two senior U.S. intelligence officials said.

Congress has until April 19th to renew FISA Section 702 before it expires.

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By Hunter Fielding
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