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Congress has approved an extension of the nation’s warrantless surveillance powers, deferring a decision on legal reform until the new year. This decision was included in the defense policy bill that is now headed to the president’s desk.
The bill extends Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) until mid-April. FISA permits government surveillance on foreigners abroad but inadvertently collects data from Americans communicating with these targets. This has sparked bipartisan unanimity on the need for reforms to curb potential FBI abuses.
Two different views:
Some lawmakers have expressed frustration over its inclusion in a must-pass bill. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) stated, “The fact of the matter is what’s being stated is it is impossible to oppose the National Defense Authorization Act because we put a pay raise in it or because we put something in there that is seemingly so important that we have to ignore the critical destruction of our civil liberties by adding FISA extension right on the top of it without doing the forms necessary to protect the American people.”
However, the intelligence community sees the extension as essential for national security. Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for the National Security Division, remarked, “We are relieved and grateful that Congress recognizes that allowing Section 702 to lapse even temporarily would be catastrophic to U.S. national security and the safety of the American people. We cannot afford to be blinded to the many threats we face from foreign adversaries, including Iran and China, as well as terrorist organizations like Hamas and ISIS.”