America Continues Controversial Spy Program

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In a striking display of legislative maneuvering, President Biden recently signed a bill that could lead to the banning of TikTok in the United States unless its Chinese ownership is divested within a year. This move, encapsulated in H.R. 7521, has sparked intense debate, especially since the ban was attached to a significant aid package (H.R. 815) providing $95 billion mostly in military support to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. This legislative decision has profound implications for privacy, national security, and international relations, making it a critical topic for public discourse.

The TikTok Ban

H.R. 7521 was passed with an overwhelming majority in the House, with a vote of 352 to 65. The bill demands that TikTok’s Chinese ownership be sold to different investors within a year, or the app will be banned in the U.S. This measure was controversially attached to H.R. 815, a bill aimed at providing substantial military aid to key international allies. The coupling of these two distinct issues has led to mixed reactions from lawmakers and the public. While some applaud the move as a necessary step to protect national security, others criticize it as a distraction from more pressing domestic issues.

Section 702 of FISA

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has been a cornerstone of U.S. intelligence operations since its inception. Originally designed to monitor the digital communications of non-U.S. citizens outside of America, this provision has been repeatedly expanded and extended, often raising significant privacy concerns. Critics argue that Section 702 provides a backdoor for warrantless surveillance of American citizens, thereby violating the Fourth Amendment. Despite these concerns, the program was recently renewed and even expanded, highlighting the ongoing tension between national security and individual privacy.

Government Surveillance vs. Foreign Espionage

The U.S. government’s focus on banning TikTok to prevent potential Chinese espionage seems ironic when juxtaposed with its own surveillance practices under Section 702. While the threat of foreign espionage via a popular app is a legitimate concern, the more pressing issue might be the extensive surveillance conducted by the U.S. government itself. Unlike foreign entities, the U.S. government has the power to imprison its citizens, making domestic surveillance a far more immediate threat to personal freedoms.

Edward Snowden Leaks

The revelations by Edward Snowden in 2013 brought to light the extensive scope of U.S. government surveillance. These leaks led to some positive reforms aimed at curbing the abuse of civil rights, yet Section 702 remains a contentious issue. The intelligence community continues to exploit this provision to conduct warrantless surveillance, often justifying their actions in the name of national security. Snowden’s leaks exposed the duplicity of government officials, such as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who denied the mass collection of data on American citizens.

The Role of Law Enforcement

Section 702 data is frequently used by law enforcement agencies, sometimes in ways that breach legal and ethical boundaries. Notable instances include the FBI’s use of this data to investigate a U.S. Senator, a federal judge, and Black Lives Matter protesters, among others. These actions have sparked outrage and calls for greater oversight and accountability. The misuse of surveillance data for politically motivated investigations undermines public trust and highlights the need for stricter safeguards to protect constitutional rights.

Speaker Mike Johnson’s Role

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson was once a vocal critic of Section 702, advocating for its discontinuation due to privacy concerns. However, his stance shifted dramatically after a private intelligence briefing, leading him to cast the decisive vote that blocked a requirement for warrants in these surveillance searches. This flip-flop has raised questions about the influence of the intelligence community on legislative decisions and the integrity of public officials.

Legality of the TikTok Ban

The legality of the TikTok ban is also a subject of debate. In August 2020, then-President Donald Trump issued an executive order to ban TikTok if its foreign ownership wasn’t divested within 45 days. This order was later blocked by a federal judge who deemed it “arbitrary and capricious.” Similarly, TikTok’s founders recently filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, arguing that the ban violates the First Amendment. This ongoing legal battle underscores the complexities of regulating foreign-owned tech companies within the U.S. legal framework.

Ownership and Control of TikTok

TikTok’s ownership structure is complex, with 60% of its shares owned by institutional investors, 20% by a group of TikTok employees worldwide, and the remaining 20% by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company. This connection to ByteDance raises concerns about potential Chinese government influence, given China’s 1993 law requiring companies to allow the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to have a presence within their operations. Reports of internal meetings between ByteDance management and CCP officials suggest that political agendas could influence the platform’s operations and content.

Security Concerns

U.S. intelligence officials, including the directors of the FBI, CIA, NSA, and DNI, have all labeled TikTok a national security threat. However, concrete evidence of the app being used for aggressive actions against the U.S. remains elusive. While the potential for data misuse exists, particularly given past instances of ByteDance employees accessing American user data, definitive proof of TikTok’s involvement in espionage or other hostile activities has not been presented.

Project Texas

In response to these concerns, TikTok proposed “Project Texas,” a plan to create a new subsidiary called TikTok U.S. Data Security Inc. (USDS). This subsidiary, staffed entirely by U.S. citizens, aims to audit TikTok’s algorithm, ensure data security, and host all U.S. data on servers managed by Oracle. While some measures have been implemented, the project’s full completion is still pending. If successful, Project Texas could provide a model for addressing security concerns while maintaining the app’s availability in the U.S.

Global Perspective

Several countries have already imposed either partial or full bans on TikTok, including Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, France, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Somalia, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. These actions reflect a growing global apprehension about TikTok’s data practices and potential ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. approach, however, remains unique in its legislative and judicial complexity.

Personal Freedom and Government Control

The debate over TikTok raises broader questions about personal freedom and government control. Should American adults have the right to use any social media app they choose, regardless of its ownership or potential risks? While there are legitimate reasons to regulate children’s use of apps like TikTok, extending these controls to adults infringes on personal freedoms. This issue is particularly poignant in a country that prides itself on individual liberty and free market principles.

American Social Media Companies

American social media platforms are not without their own issues. Instances of manipulation and control, such as the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story by Twitter and Facebook, highlight the lack of transparency and accountability within these companies. Former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morell testified that current Secretary of State Antony Blinken was behind the false claim that the New York Post’s reporting was Russian propaganda

Free Speech and Alternative Media are under attack by the Deep State. Chris Wick News needs your support to survive. 

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