Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Senate passes bill renewing key FISA surveillance power moments after it expires

By 37ci3 Apr20,2024

WASHINGTON – The Senate has voted Reauthorizing a powerful surveillance tool the US government has described as critical to fighting terrorism, after defeating efforts by civil liberties advocates to curb it.

The 60-34 majority sends the bill to President Joe Biden, who championed it. Legislation is being extended Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Actor FISA, two more years.

The final vote came after the Senate defeated six amendments from progressive and conservative senators that said the spying powers were too broad and demanded protections for Americans’ civil liberties and privacy. The Biden administration and FISA supporters have warned that even a brief pause could have a detrimental effect on the intelligence-gathering process.

Senators missed a midnight deadline to reauthorize Section 702 of FISA, but voted to reauthorize it moments later. If any amendments were passed, the bill would be sent back to the House, potentially leaving the law in limbo for a long time.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “In a short period of time, bipartisanship has prevailed here in the Senate.”

“It wasn’t easy, people had very different views, but we all know one thing: It would be dangerous to let FISA expire. Stopping acts of terrorism, drug trafficking, and violent extremism is an important part of our national security,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “I thank all of my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their good work in making this happen.”

House passed a two-year FISA renewal after an amendment requiring warrants to search through Americans’ communications as part of data collected while tracking foreigners was defeated by the slimmest of margins last week. Senators delayed the vote for days, demanding amendments to amend the bill.

The bill’s passage came after a battle between the US intelligence community and an unusual coalition of progressive and conservative civil liberties advocates who argue the powers are too broad and impinge on Americans’ privacy.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Intelligence Committee and an outspoken supporter of privacy. “It’s important that people understand how fundamental this bill is,” he said. “Something was thrown in at the last minute, which would basically make someone like a cabler spy for the government. They would force the man to do it, and there would be no appeal.”

In a rare break with Schumer and Biden, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the acting president, opposed the bill, saying, “I have strong concerns that this expansion of FISA Section 702 authorities will allow for increased abuse and misuse. of the law – to violate the rights of Americans here at home.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., pushed back on other criticisms of the House amendment attached to the FISA reauthorization bill, saying it was “narrowly focused on a significant intelligence loophole,” but some members like Wyden is worried. can be abused.

“Contrary to what some have said, it expressly excludes coffee shops, bars, restaurants, residences, hotels, libraries, recreational facilities and a number of similar establishments,” Warner said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “It would absolutely not allow the US government to force, say, a janitor working in an office building in Northern Virginia to spy on the intelligence community, as some critics have argued.”

Warner said that allowing FISA to expire would put the United States in “unchartered territory” because companies that work with the government to provide intelligence could stop doing so without reauthorization.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said that “60% of the president’s daily briefing is 702 material, so it’s absolutely critical.”

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By 37ci3

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