Senate Committee Questions Intel

Caroline Beck
June 10, 2017

FISA is the focus, but given the lineup, you can expect some questions relating to President Trump and the Russian Federation investigation and some previews of what to expect from tomorrow's hearing, when former FBI Director James Comey will testify before the same committee.

Privacy advocates have criticized the law though for allowing the incidental collection of data belonging to millions of Americans without a search warrant.

Mike Rogers speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, June 7, 2017, in Washington.

NSA Director Rogers added that the law had been vital to preventing terrorism in allied countries as well.

Wednesday's hearing is the committee's first step to make the case for re-authorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is the law the NSA uses to track emails and phone calls of non-US citizens - while sometimes incidentally collecting communications of U.S. citizens, too.

Republican senators said Section 702 is used for counterterrorism purposes and "is one of the most effective tools available to the intelligence community" to fight threats against the United States.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., along with other Republicans, proposed on Tuesday a bill to make FISA Section 702 permanent.

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In a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing that often veered off route, two of the nation's most powerful intelligence figures made their case for extending a controversial portion of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) known as Section 702.

The statute, which grants the National Security Agency a considerable freedom in the collection of foreigners' digital communications, normally comes with a "sunset" clause, meaning that roughly every five years lawmakers need to reconsider its impact on privacy and civil liberties.

Intelligence officials have been promising Congress they would provide lawmakers with an estimate of the number of American communications that are collected under Section 702. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden asked Coats.

Intelligence chiefs and senior administration officials are pushing for a surveillance law, set to expire at the end of the year, to be signed into law on a permanent basis.

But the move to support the legislative effort was spurned as "out of touch" by the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued that despite the government's assertions that Americans are not directly targeted, that an unknown number of USA citizens - who are constitutionally protected from domestic spying - are caught up in the NSA's surveillance dragnet.

Reuters reported in March that the Trump administration supported renewal of Section 702 without any changes, citing an unnamed White House official, but it was not clear at the time whether it wanted the law made permanent.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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