Several legal experts said that by redefining the meaning of “electronic surveillance,” the new law narrows the types of communications covered in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, by indirectly giving the government the power to use intelligence collection methods far beyond wiretapping that previously required court approval if conducted inside the United States.
These new powers include the collection of business records, physical searches and so-called “trap and trace” operations, analyzing specific calling patterns...
...In effect, [civil rights advocates] say, the legislation significantly relaxes the restrictions on how the government can conduct spying operations aimed at foreigners at the same time that it allows authorities to sweep up information about Americans.
With Democrats controlling Congress, things are going to change, right? Don't hold your breath. The New York Times reports that "lawmakers, in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought." Now two weeks after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was signed into law, Democrats are wondering what they approved. The Times:
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