White House, Intel Chiefs Want to Make Internet Spying Law Permanent

Justin Greene
June 10, 2017

The hearing is focused on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), though there are likely to be questions involving the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Section 702, which allows the government to intercept the communications of foreign intelligence targets, is set to expire on December 31 unless it is reauthorized by Congress.

During a Senate hearing that was largely concerned with the government's ongoing investigations into Russian Federation and possible collusion with members of President Donald Trump's campaign, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats called permanent reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) his top legislative priority.

The push to make the law permanent may lead to a contentious debate over renewal of Section 702 in Congress, where lawmakers in both parties are deeply divided over whether to adopt transparency and oversight reforms. "We can not allow adversaries overseas to cloak themselves in the legal protections we extend to Americans".

The White House and intelligence leaders Wednesday backed a proposed bill that would make Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permanent. Burr asked NSA Director Mike Rogers, who replied that there had not been, and said that if Section 702 collection was not authorized, the NSA would be unable to identify and prevent critical threats to United States national security. The government has so far gained the support to reauthorize the statute on a permanent basis from over a dozens senators - including every Republican on the Senate intelligence panel, according to Reuters.

Intelligence Director Coats said it was not feasible for the NSA to provide an estimate of the number of Americans whose communications are ensnared incidentally under Section 702.

In a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing that often veered off route, two of the nation's most powerful intelligence figures made their case for extending a controversial portion of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) known as Section 702.

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed the sweeping nature of 702 surveillance, prompting outrage internationally and embarrassing some US technology firms shown to be involved in a program known as Prism.

Making the law permanent without changes would preclude codifying that change.

Graham was among 14 Republican senators, including every Republican member of the intelligence panel, who on Tuesday introduced a bill supported by the White House and top intelligence chiefs, that would renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent.

Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said one of the most significant reforms needed is to the so-called "backdoor search loophole", where intelligence agencies may conduct warrantless searches of U.S. citizens' collected communications if the target of the surveillance was a foreign national.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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