White House, Intel Chiefs Want to Make Internet Spying Law Permanent

During a Senate hearing that was largely concerned with the government's ongoing investigations into Russian Federation and possible collusion with members of President Donald Trump's campaign, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats called permanent reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) his top legislative priority. Burr asked NSA Director Mike Rogers, who replied that there had not been, and said that if Section 702 collection was not authorized, the NSA would be unable to identify and prevent critical threats to USA national security.

"We're not going to reauthorize these surveillance programs if the American people are not satisfied that their security is going to be safeguarded", Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican and House intelligence committee member, said last month on Fox News.

"This program has provided our national security agencies vital intelligence that has saved American lives and provided insights into some of the hardest intelligence targets", Cotton said in a statement.

"We're working on that with the Congress and we'll come to a satisfactory resolution, because we have to", said Ledgett, who has since retired from public service.

Coats, in his opening remarks, confirmed that the Trump administration is pushing for a "permanent reauthorization" of Section 702, which would prevent it from expiring. Seizing the opportunity, Senators from both sides of the aisle pressed the intelligence chiefs about reports that President Trump had approached them in order to influence the ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said later that "if there are willful violations" of Section 702, then the Department of Justice would hold those individuals accountable. A frustrated Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who has asked for such an estimate for several years, said Coats "went back on a pledge".

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe whether the FBI ever seeks collection under Section 702. Angus King of Maine about his legal justification for not publicly addressing his conversation with Trump, Coats said, "I'm not sure I have a legal basis". "This pool of warrantless Section 702 information on USA persons is probably sizeable". Because American citizens have Fourth Amendment rights, running into Americans in the course of foreign surveillance creates the sticky situation known as incidental collection, a major focus for privacy advocates seeking reform.

"We outline, in writing, what criteria we applied to a request to unmask. when we think we need to reference a United States person in a report, we will not use their name", Rogers said.

At that point, Rogers said, the individual making the unmasking request must do so in writing, and must prove that the request "tangibly ties to their job".

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