September 14, 2023
Coalition of 52 organizations led by Asian American Scholar Forum, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Stop AAPI Hate calls for significant reforms to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Letter to Congress marks historic commitment from Asian American community to tackle unjust government surveillance
NATIONWIDE – A national coalition of 52 Asian American and allied organizations today issued a letter calling on Congress to oppose the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) unless it implements comprehensive reforms to end its misuse. Led by the Asian American Scholar Forum, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC (Advancing Justice – AAJC), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and Stop AAPI Hate, the coalition’s emergence is an unprecedented signal from Asian American communities that they will play a significant role in the fight to end mass warrantless spying on Americans enabled by FISA.
Section 702 grants intelligence agencies broad authority to collect the communications of foreigners abroad who use U.S. communications platforms. But as currently written and interpreted, it enables unfettered, warrantless, and discriminatory surveillance that encroaches on the privacy of everyday Americans in the U.S. and abroad. Recent revelations show that a litany of unlawful “backdoor” warrantless searches for Americans’ communications under Section 702 by government agents have been used for purposes unrelated to national security, including targeting of political activities and surveillance informed by racial animus.
“Unjust government surveillance is a growing threat to all Americans’ freedom and civil liberties, and Asian Americans are no exception,” said John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC. “An increasing number of government leaders are using geopolitical tensions with the Chinese government and other countries to justify mass spying, racial profiling, and discrimination of innocent people. Today, Asian American communities are showing up united in the fight to stop warrantless government surveillance practices. We must be invested in the fight to reform Section 702 of FISA because our privacy, our civil rights, and our civil liberties are at stake.”
“From the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II to the modern day unjust prosecutions of Chinese Americans and immigrants, our country has a centuries-long history of treating Asian Americans as ‘perpetual foreigners’ and unfairly scapegoating us as economic or national security threats,” said Gisela Kusakawa, Executive Director of Asian American Scholar Forum. “This enduring, harmful ‘perpetual foreigner’ narrative is now colliding with the current wave of anti-Asian xenophobia and bigotry — creating a dangerous environment in which Asian Americans are extraordinarily vulnerable to warrantless government surveillance and profiling. We need to reexamine the national security apparatus and broad surveillance authorities that have already led to unjust accusations, destroyed careers, and shattered lives — and will continue to do so unless we work towards lasting change, accountability, and appropriate safeguards for our communities.”
The coalition calls on Congress to enact the following reforms:
- Require a warrant to access Americans’ communications: Congress should mandate the government to obtain a warrant before searching Section 702 data or other Fourth Amendment protected information.
- Bolster judicial review of foreign intelligence surveillance: Reforms should be enacted to increase transparency and enhance the accuracy of the government’s submissions to the FISA Court, ensuring that the court can make informed decisions.
- Place reasonable limits on the scope of surveillance: Congress should ensure that surveillance under Section 702 is specifically targeted at individuals reasonably likely to possess information of genuine intelligence value.
“Section 702 must undergo a comprehensive overhaul to protect the rights of Asian Americans and all citizens,” said Cynthia Choi, Co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate and Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “Without these reforms, Asian American communities will continue to feel unsafe and unwelcome in their own country. Our shared commitment to justice and equality demands that we address the systemic shortcomings within our national security programs and foreign intelligence surveillance authorities, ensuring that the principles of fairness and individual liberty prevail over prejudice and discrimination.”