Congress Wants Tighter Leash on NSA Despite White House Objections

Congress Wants Tighter Leash on NSA Despite White House Objections

The House Judiciary Committee is asking for tighter limits on one of the NSA’s controversial surveillance programs before it grants a temporary reauthorization. The move could spark a fight with the Trump White House.

The lawmakers behind the push, Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Robert W. Goodlatte (R-VA), and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), have agreed to a six-year extension of the FISA Amendments Act this week. The legislation is due to expire in December.

However, the extension agreement comes with strings attached as lawmakers want more restrictions on a warrantless spy program. Under one of the new limits, the FBI will have to get a warrant before it can search the NSA’s database of intercepted messages from U.S. criminal suspects.

The congressional panel also wants to end another controversial spy program that allows U.S. agents to intercept online communications about a certain person without the e-mails being sent to or received from that suspect. The NSA agreed to end the program earlier this year, but it would like to see it turned back on.

Trump Administration Opposes the Changes

The Trump administration and the U.S. spy community oppose the new measures, which will appear in a bill being worked on by the House Judiciary Committee. The Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, and Trumps’ AG, Jeff Sessions, penned a letter to Congress, urging Representatives to bring no changes to the surveillance law.

Coats and Sessions argue that a speedy enactment of the law without changes except for the removing of the sunset provision is needed by their agencies to keep the American people safe. Goodlatte noted Tuesday that a reauthorization of the controversial spy program without changes would not make it through the House.

“Congress must reauthorize this critical national security tool but not without reforms,” Goodlatte said.

With the FISA Amendments Act (2008), the Bush administration quietly approved a warrantless surveillance program designed to target terrorism suspects after Sept. 11, 2001. U.S. spies have been allowed to intercept the communications of foreigners located abroad even if they contact Americans ever since.
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