This year, The U.S. Congress is looking into reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The Act permits the Government to collect communications of specific foreign individuals physically outside the United States. 702 is used to protect Americans against terrorism, espionage, and cyberattacks. To date, however, one crucial benefit of 702 collections has been overlooked – how 702 information helps prevent sensitive U.S. technology from ending up in the hands of such adversaries as Russia and the People’s Republic of China. If not reauthorized, the Act will lapse in December.
For 2023, the Annual Threat Assessment report leads with the threat posed by nation-state actors: China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, especially given their relentless push to use advances in technology to surpass U.S. militarily.
Such technologies as hypersonics, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence have the potential to reshape the geopolitical landscape. Quantum computing, for example, will enable the country that develops the technology first to create unbreakable encryption and potentially break all existing encryption, revealing the world’s most sensitive national security communications.
Efforts to combat threats depend on access to information obtained on adversaries, including information collected thanks to Section 702. Specific 702-derived information has been used to disrupt illicit procurement networks, select companies for end-use checks overseas, and inform licensing processes. It has also been used to prevent adversaries from obtaining desired technologies and to add foreign parties to our Entity List.
This year, a Disruptive Technology Strike Force was created to target illicit actors, protect supply chains, and prevent critical technology from being acquired by authoritarian regimes and hostile nation-states. The first five cases involved a wide range of technology exploitation efforts, from alleged procurement networks created to help the Russian military and intelligence services obtain sensitive U.S. technology to defendants allegedly stealing source code from U.S. technology companies to market it to Chinese competitors.
Congress will hear from stakeholders on how best to strike a proper balance that protects legitimate privacy interests while permitting appropriate use of 702 to protect national security.