PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP and some Republican lawmakers in Congress insist that the president and his aides were inappropriately snooped on by politically motivated federal intelligence officials during the 2016 election. Yet when given the opportunity to scale back the FBI's power to secretly engage in domestic surveillance of American citizens, the president and the GOP did not take advantage of it. In fact, they did the opposite.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments was scheduled to sunset at the end of 2017 unless Congress renewed it. That provision authorizes the federal government to poke into communications of foreign targets, overseen by a secret court. While these powers are supposed to be used only to collect foreign intelligence and fight terrorism overseas, domestic communications also get quietly vacuumed up. Because these communications are typically collected without a warrant, there is reason for significant concern about privacy violations.
Surveillance officials are supposed to mask the identifying information of any Americans, but civil rights advocates warn that these powers are actually being used to collect evidence in wholly domestic cases, circumventing the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. Their fears were bolstered by Edward Snowden's disclosure that the government is storing massive amounts of data from Americans' email accounts and phones.
As Congress prepared to renew Section...