WASHINGTON (AP) — A top US intelligence official on Thursday urged Congress to renew sweeping powers given to US spy agencies to monitor and screen communications, saying they are needed to stop terrorism, cyberattacks and other threats.
The remarks by Gen. Paul Nakasone, the director of the National Security Agency, opened up what is expected to be a contentious debate over provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that expires at the end of the year. Bipartisan consensus in favor of expanding surveillance powers in the years after 9/11 Give way to increasing doubtsEspecially among Republicans who believe that spy agencies used those powers to undermine former President Donald Trump.
The Republican Party’s new majority in the US House of Representatives has already been won plate formed About “arming the federal government”. Progressive Democrats have pushed for more restrictions on warrantless surveillance.
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The NSA and other spy agencies use powers under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to collect huge swaths of foreign communications, which also leads to the collection of emails and calls from Americans. The law prohibits spy agencies from targeting Americans and requires the FBI to seek a court order to gain access to the communications of a US citizen.
Section 702 was first added to FISA in 2008 and renewed for six years in 2018, when Trump was Originally tweeted dissent to the program but then reverses itself.
Nakasone argued that the law “plays a huge role in protecting the nation” and generates “some of the US government’s most important intelligence on our most challenging targets.”
He gave many broad examples of this work, including detecting attempts to steal sensitive US technology, stopping transfers of weapons components, preventing cyberattacks, and “understanding the strategic intentions” of China and Russia.
“We’ve saved lives because of 702 people,” Nakasone told a virtual meeting of the US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Council.
The general said he could not release more details publicly about the impact of that surveillance, acknowledging that it also limited his ability to make his case. Civil liberties advocates have long criticized the secrecy of the intelligence courts’ procedures and the power agencies’ having to collect years of incidental data on Americans.
Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said Congress had created an “effective national security exception to the United States Constitution”.
“The American people and people around the world have lost the ability to have a private conversation over digital networks,” she told the board. Section 702, Cohn said, “was a mass surveillance infrastructure that subjected people’s communications to NSA review.”
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee and other national security hawks are expected to push fellow Republicans to support the renewal this year, with changes yet to be determined.
“We have to have a discussion within our caucus, but I feel good about the foundation we’ve laid,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican who will lead the new House Select Committee on China, said in an interview. this week. There is a serious and legitimate concern. And so part of the renewal process is to make a reform that gives people confidence that there will be no abuses in the future.”
In December 2019, the Justice Department’s inspector general found that the FBI withheld key information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when it applied for orders to monitor the communication of Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide. But the inspector general made clear the extent to which agents relied throughout the process on unconfirmed allegations collected by a former British spy.
That court’s chief justice would issue an extraordinary rebuke to the FBI, saying it made “unsupported” admissions while making wiretap requests and failed to provide other information that would weaken the government’s case for surveillance.
In response to the scrutiny, the FBI announced a series of changes designed to ensure that its requests to the court, which approves warrants for wiretaps on US soil on people suspected of being agents of a foreign power, are more accurate.
Congress in 2020 authorized the expiry of three provisions of the Patriot Act that the FBI and Justice Department said were necessary for national security, including one that allows investigators to monitor subjects without establishing that they are working on behalf of an international terrorist organization. The Senate passed a bill to renew those powers, but Democrats pulled the legislation off the House floor after Trump and House Republicans turned against the measure and ensured defeat.
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