House poised to vote this week on renewal of major surveillance program

After months of wrangling between national security hawks and privacy advocates, the House will vote this week on a long-term extension of a surveillance program that allows the government to gather foreign intelligence on US soil. Should the bill pass unchanged, Senate leaders say they expect their chamber to approve it before it expires on Jan. 19. But privacy advocates in the House are backing an amendment that would impose a set of restraints. At issue is a tool that permits the National Security Agency to collect emails and other communications of foreign surveillance targets located overseas. Authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as amended in 2008, the tool is regarded by the intelligence community as vital to protecting the country. But some lawmakers are concerned that the Section 702 database contains the emails of Americans who have been in touch with foreign targets that were obtained without individualized warrants, and other purely domestic communications. These critics want to require the FBI to obtain a warrant before searching the database for Americans’ data. The bill under consideration sets more-modest restrictions, requiring the FBI to obtain a court order before reviewing the content of queries for Americans’ information in the database — but only when the bureau wants to use that information in a full-fledged criminal case.


House poised to vote this week on renewal of major surveillance program