Congressional leaders seek to extend contested surveillance program through April


The lifespan of foreign spy tools set to expire in a few weeks could be briefly extended until April 19 after congressional leaders inserted a short-term renewal into the annual defense policy bill.

The decision to tie a temporary renewal of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to the massive policy plan comes after a week of behind-the-scenes negotiations that delayed the public release of the final defense measure.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-OH) and Jim Himes (CT), the panel’s top Democrat, confirmed the renewal was tied to defense legislation during a roundtable discussion Wednesday afternoon with reporters on Capitol Hill.

By delaying until mid-April, lawmakers would give themselves more time to renew the statute – which allows the National Security Agency to collect electronic communications of foreign intelligence targets – which is set to expire at the end of the ‘year. The law was criticized because data on an unknown number of Americans was siphoned off in the process.

“Obviously the House is in chaos and our legislative work has been disrupted,” Turner said, referring to the recent month-long battle for the speakership.

“So I think this is an appropriate extension to give the House an opportunity to answer Question 702,” he added. “By extending it, we avoid the calamity of disruption. »

“I set myself on fire yesterday when I thought there was a chance there would be a period of one, two or three weeks” when the 702 wasn’t working, Himes joked.

There has been a wave of reauthorization bills introduced over the past month, each with a different view on whether FBI analysts who search NSA data for information on Americans should obtain a warrant – a warrant to which the White House was adamantly opposed.

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday became the first panel to approve its legislationthe one with the most expansive mandate requirement to date.

The intelligence panel, which shares jurisdiction over FISA, introduces its bill Thursday. Turner and Himes said their measure incorporated provisions of Senate Intelligence Committee billwhich makes it essentially bicameral.

A months-long delay would also sideline the heated debate over reauthorization from the next battle over government funding. Congress previously approved a two-phase spending plan to avoid a shutdown before the holidays. An extension into April would ensure Section 702 would work in the event of a government shutdown.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is in a “difficult position” as he tries to do “year-end things” like renewing FISA and the Authorization Act. National Defense (NDAA), according to Turner, a longtime party member. House Armed Services Committee.

An April extension could also silence privacy advocates and civil liberties advocates who don’t want such a renewal of 702 tied to must-pass funding bills. The strategy, however, carries certain risks; A bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers previously warned congressional leaders against expanding FISA on the NDAA.

It’s unclear whether that opposition will hold, or increase, now that the provision has been included, particularly within the fractured House GOP conference.

“I think people who claim they’re not going to vote for the NDAA, when they weren’t going to vote for it anyway, are not putting the bill in jeopardy,” Turner said.

During the Judiciary markup, panel Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) said he expected the committee’s bill to receive a floor vote next week, but it is likely that the Short-term extension would disrupt this schedule.

Turner said he had “no assurance” about when his committee’s bill would be considered by the chamber.

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Martin Matishak

Martin Matishak is the senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. Before joining Recorded Future News in 2021, he spent more than five years at Politico, where he covered digital and national security developments on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community. He was previously a reporter for The Hill, National Journal Group and Inside Washington Publishers.

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