CIA Wants Congress to Expand Top-Secret Eavesdropping Program To ‘Fight Against Fentanyl Crisis’

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Written By Maya Cantina

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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), along with other members of the U.S. intelligence community, are pushing for Congress to expand Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 in order to fight the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

According to the Brennan Center of 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.”

USA Today has reported that top CIA officials spent most of 2023-2024 urging members of Congress to reauthorize Section 702 of the FISA Act of 1978.

However, CIA officials believe in its current form, Section 702 limits the intelligence community from targeting everyone involved in the fentanyl trade overseas and are advocating lawmakers to expand Section 702 so U.S. spies will have more liberty when it comes to going after criminals engaged in the fentanyl trade.

Many lawmakers are skeptical of expanding Section 702 due to the CIA previously misusing the law to spy on American citizens.

Per 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 reauthorize FISA Section 702 before its sunset provision runs out.

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