Trump officials implore Congress to renew intelligence law

Mike Lee

Privacy advocates critical of the program have insisted on reforms that would require at least the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)-America's top domestic law enforcement agency-to get a warrant before accessing the communications of U.S. citizens.

Absent congressional action, the Section 702 program will expire at the end of the year - a worst-case scenario for the intelligence community, which has ranked an extension of the program as its highest legislative priority for 2017.

Senators Ron Wyden of OR and Rand Paul of Kentucky had, meanwhile, vowed to "actively oppose and filibuster" any version of the bill that allowed for a "long-term extension" of Section 702.

Section 702, which was adopted in 2008 and renewed in 2012, grants intelligence agencies the ability to collect "foreign intelligence that is vital to protect the nation against global terrorism and other threats".

At issue is whether or not federal investigators should be forced to obtain a warrant before viewing or using information on Americans' that is incidentally collected under the program.

We agree. Whatever the merits of surveillance, trampling the constitutional rights of Americans can not be accepted, even in the name of national security.

Lawmakers are expected to approve a short-term extension of the surveillance authority in its current form, keeping it in place until January 19 - that being the same date the short-term budget extension pending before Congress this week is set to expire.

Both Wyden and Leahy have long opposed permanent reauthorization.

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"There may be temptation to attach reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act to a large end-of-year legislative package, but doing so would undermine representative democracy by effectively precluding most members of Congress from being heard ... and preventing the public from finding out where their representatives stand", the letter reads. The lawmakers cosponsored a Section 702 reform bill, the USA Rights Act, in October.

"[The CIA and the NSA conduct] more than 5,000 searches for the content of Americans' communications and more than 30,000 for metadata", Wyden wrote for Just Security, a New York University-affiliated think tank.

The identities of Americans swept up in foreign surveillance are said to be "masked" when redacted in classified intelligence briefs generated for the White House, the president's national security council, and other staffers credentialed to view the classified reports.

Nunes' bill redefines statutory terms like "foreign power" and "agent of foreign power" to include cyber-related activities deemed a national security threat. Ryan suggested Tuesday, lawmakers would be tasked with balancing three different proposed revisions.

Efforts to renew a controversial warrantless internet surveillance program have hit another snag in Congress, with the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee now claiming the bill would be dead on arrival.

"The legislation posted late yesterday is a clear step backward for Americans" rights.

This would not apply to counterterrorism or counterintelligence cases, however.

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