Senate passes reauthorization of key US surveillance program

WASHINGTON (AP) — Missing its midnight deadline, the Senate voted early Saturday to reauthorize a key US Surveillance Act That law nearly expired after divisions over whether to prevent the FBI from using the program to search Americans' data.

The bill, approved 60-34 with bipartisan support, would extend the program, known as Section 702, for two years Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It now heads to President Joe Biden's desk for legislation. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden “will sign the bill shortly.”

“We're reauthorizing FISA before it expires at midnight,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said as a vote on the final passage began 15 minutes before the deadline. “Throughout the day, we persevered and tried to make a breakthrough, and in the end we succeeded.”

The surveillance tool, first approved in 2008 and updated several times since, is critical to disrupting terrorist attacks, cyber intrusions and foreign espionage operations, and has produced intelligence the United States relies on for such specific operations, U.S. officials have said. 2022 murder Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

“If you miss an important piece of intelligence, you could miss some events overseas or harm the troops,” said Sen. Marco Rubio said. “You can miss a plot to harm the country here, locally or elsewhere. So in this particular case, there are real-life implications.

The proposal would renew the program, which allows the U.S. government to collect the communications of non-Americans located outside the country without a warrant to gather foreign intelligence. After months of clashes between privacy advocates and national security hawks, the reauthorization faced a long and bumpy road to a final passage on Friday.

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Although the spying program technically expired at midnight, the Biden administration said it expects the intelligence-gathering authority to remain in place for at least another year, thanks to an opinion by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court earlier this month. applications.

However, officials have said that court approval should not be a substitute for congressional approval, especially if the program expires, as telecommunications companies may stop cooperating with the government.

U.S. officials were already struggling after the House said before the law's expiration that two major U.S. communications providers would stop complying with orders through a surveillance program, according to a person familiar with the matter and the private negotiations.

Attorney General Merrick Garland praised the reauthorization and reiterated how “essential” the tool is to the judiciary.

“This reauthorization of Section 702 gives the United States the authority to continue collecting foreign intelligence information about non-Americans outside the United States, while codifying important reforms the Department of Justice has adopted to ensure the protection of Americans' privacy and civil liberties,” Garland said in a statement Saturday.

But the Biden administration pressed senators this week on the key role they say the spy program plays in protecting national security, and despite classified explanations, a group of progressive and conservative lawmakers agitating for more changes refused to adopt a version of the bill. Council sent last week.

Lawmakers have demanded that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer be allowed to vote on amendments to the legislation, which seek to address what they see as civil liberties loopholes in the bill. In the end, Schumer was able to cut a deal that would speed up the passage process in exchange for critics getting a floor vote on their amendments.

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All six amendments ultimately failed to gain the support needed to be included in the final passage.

Opponents proposed a key set of changes centered on limiting the FBI's access to information about Americans through the program. Although the surveillance tool only targets non-Americans in other countries, it also collects the communications of Americans when they interact with targeted foreigners. Room no. 2 Democratic Sen. Dick Turbin proposed a proposal that would require U.S. officials to obtain a warrant before accessing U.S. communications.

“If the government wants to spy on my private communications or the private communications of any American, they have to get approval from a judge, just like our founding fathers wrote the Constitution,” Durbin said.

Over the past year, U.S. officials have exposed a series of abuses and mistakes by FBI investigators in improperly querying intelligence repositories for information about Americans or others in the United States. Member of Congress and participants 2020 Racial Justice Protests and Jan. 6, 2021, Riots in the US Capitol.

But members of both the House and Senate intelligence committees and the Judiciary Department warned that requiring a warrant would severely handicap officials from responding quickly to immediate national security threats.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Friday.


Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

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