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Congress Facing Time Crunch to Reauthorize Surveillance Programs

by Countable | 12.1.17

Among Congress’ several end-of-the-year legislative priorities is the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — which lets intelligence agencies collect the electronic communications of non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. and is set to expire on December 31, 2017.

The reauthorization of Section 702 pits the need of intelligence agencies to access the program’s expansive database against the desire of civil libertarians to protect the privacy of Americans whose communications are "incidentally collected" by the surveillance. This contrast has led to the introduction of several bills that reauthorize the program for various lengths of time, with differing reforms attached. Here’s a look at some of the proposals:

USA LIBERTY Act - Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)

  • Six-year reauthorization of Section 702.

  • Codifies the existing ban on the collection of communications "about" a target.

  • Requires a court order to search the Section 702 database.

  • Law enforcement and intelligence agencies could only query the database after getting a court order.

  • Passed the House Judiciary Committee on a 27-8 vote.

  • 13 cosponsors (seven Republicans and six Democrats).

FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act - Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)

  • Eight-year reauthorization of Section 702.

  • Codifies the existing ban on the collection of communications "about" a target, but creates an exemption allowing the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to propose resuming it with Congress’ approval.

  • Information from the Section 702 database could only be used in court proceedings related to national security investigations.

  • Any Section 702 query that returns information on a U.S. person would be reported to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court within one day, which would review the query for compliance with the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

  • Passed the Senate Intelligence Committee on a 12-3 vote.

USA RIGHTS Act - Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

  • Four-year reauthorization of Section 702.

  • Codifies the existing ban on the collection of communication "about" a target.

  • Prohibits "back door searches" and “reverse targeting” by requiring a warrant for any query of the Section 702 database for communications by Americans or people inside the U.S.

  • Opinions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that involve significant interpretations of law or statutory language would have to be declassified.

  • 14 cosponsors (Nine Democrats, four Republicans, and one Independent).

Tell your reps what you think of these proposals and the reauthorization of Section 702 using the Take Action button, then share your thoughts in the comments below.

— Eric Revell

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(Photo Credit: gorodenkoff / iStock)

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(15)
  • NoHedges
    12/01/2017
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    I don't want the collection of any personal data on any HUMAN in any country while Trump is in office. Investigate the actions corporations instead. It is all you lot seem to care about anyhow.

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  • Kodiwodi
    12/01/2017
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    I think it’s a shame that Congress has wasted so much time this year it’s now in a time crunch to pass foreign surveillance bills. That you cannot come to agreement on a 6 year or 8 year reauthorization of a plan that stinks anyway is not my problem. There should be no collection of data from US citizens who are in contact with those outside of the US. It’s an invasion of their privacy without a warrant. No accidental collection is acceptable. As far as I am concerned, there should be NO reauthorization at all.

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  • Leon
    12/02/2017
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    No reauthorization

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  • P
    12/01/2017
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    Please give us our constitution back!! Dismantle these anti-liberty, unpatriotic rules.

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  • Michael777
    12/04/2017
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    Probably the only thing I hope Congress does not do. I mean, government surveillance into our private lives without proper warrants is unconstitutional.

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  • Abbi
    12/03/2017
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    You all know they're gonna do it.

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  • Meg
    12/05/2017
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    These “supposed” Surveillance Acts are a violation of the 4th Amendment, Unreasonable Search and Seizure of Private Data, and a violation of an individual’s Civil Liberties. Have we not learned from Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and other whistleblowers in the Intelligence Community that 9/11 gave the 43rd president an excuse to invade our personal lives? What is the purpose of those huge data servers and buildings in the Utah desert? I say it is time to STOP the government from acting like Big Brother from the book 1984 and make the government be MORE ACCOUNTABLE to the citizens of this great country about the REAL purpose of these Acts.

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  • Tilton
    12/04/2017
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    I want to be safe. I want justice for misuse of surveillance. I have misgivings about the ability for our current administration and congress to provide a perfect mix of safety and misuse.

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  • ConservativeMomma
    12/02/2017
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    If surveillance of non us citizens can keep us safe it is a lot easier than warfare and less costly. Only those having anything to hide should fear this.

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  • Mel
    12/01/2017
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    I’m ok with it on non us citizens only as soon as there is any listening in or anything else on us citizens the bill should be stopped by a clause wrote into it

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  • Dave
    12/02/2017
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    Trump and corporate America want to have a private SS group with no over public sight.

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  • Joseph
    12/02/2017
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    Please extend the foreign surveillance bill and shut down this awful tax bill. Don’t hurt education. We need smart people IN the U.S. and answer this. When is the last time some rich group of people or businesses pumped over a trillion dollars into the economy? Oh wait never, we bailed them out hahahaha.

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  • Gail
    12/02/2017
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    Maybe congress should authorize a surveillance program for the President and his cronies in regards to their communications with Nazis, the Ku Klux Clan, and Russia.

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  • Lyndenite
    12/03/2017
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    FISA is against the U.S. constitution. It is probably more often used on US citizens with no regard to personal protection or regard to the first amendment. When we are spying on heads of state from other countries and it becomes public knowledge it makes us look like an overreaching abusive power in the world. This should not be renewed nor should anything like it be put in its place. We cannot leave our privacy to someone that is not appointed by the people without any checks or balances. There is no accountability with this program

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  • Jerrey
    12/03/2017
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    This act needs to be renewed

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