Senate leaders are planning to send to the president’s desk next week a bill to reauthorize the government’s authority to conduct foreign surveillance on U.S. soil, despite opposition from privacy advocates and mixed messages from President Donald Trump himself, who questioned his administration’s support for the program Thursday morning.
The Senate voted 69 to 26 Thursday to start debate on the bill, which would extend for six years the National Security Agency’s ability to collect from U.S. companies the emails and other communications of foreign targets located outside the United States. The vote came hours after the House voted 256 to 164 to approve the legislation and is a sign that lawmakers intend to move swiftly to pass the measure before the program’s statutory authority expires Jan. 19.
The intelligence community considers the program – known as Section 702, named for its place within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act that established it in 2008 – to be its key national security surveillance tool. But privacy advocates oppose the law, arguing that there are not enough limits to federal law enforcement agencies’ ability to scour the communications of Americans in touch with foreign targets.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Thursday that he intended to do “everything in my power, including filibuster,” to impede the bill next week, although that is unlikely to block its passage. A House effort to amend the bill and require the federal government to obtain warrants before searching for Americans’ information failed Thursday by a vote of 233 to 183.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Karoun Demirjian, Josh Dawsey