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Senate leaders seek quick action on key surveillance authority

Ryan Tarinelli, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — The House dispensed with a procedural issue Monday on a bill that would renew a powerful surveillance authority for two years, as Senate leaders of both parties stressed the need to reauthorize the program before it lapses on Friday.

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday the Senate “must finish approving legislation” to extend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

But he noted that the chamber also will have to deal with impeachment articles for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas set to arrive Tuesday.

“With less than a week to go before FISA authorities expire, time is a luxury the Senate doesn’t have,” Schumer said. “Republicans need to work with us in a bipartisan way to ensure this program with important implications for our national security does not lapse.”

FISA Section 702 allows the U.S. government to collect digital communications of foreigners located outside the country. But the program also brings in the communications of Americans and allows the FBI to search through data without a warrant, using information such as an email address.

Privacy hawks from both parties in the Senate have telegraphed concerns about the House-passed bill over privacy issues.


That includes whether the bill should require the government to get a warrant to tap into information about Americans — an issue that bitterly divided the House last week when the chamber declined to add a warrant requirement by the thinnest of margins.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a floor speech Monday praised the authority as a key tool in identifying terrorism against the U.S. and slammed the idea of a warrant requirement.

“Misguided efforts that require a criminal-law warrant to sort and organize those data on U.S. persons would end, end the ability of the FBI to keep Americans safe,” he said. “Frankly, they would forget the lessons of 9/11. So I’ll oppose any such efforts and urge my colleagues to do the same.”

House lawmakers on Friday voted to pass the bill, which would continue Section 702 for two years. In a nail-biter decision, the chamber in a 212-212 vote rejected an amendment that would have added a warrant requirement to the program.


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