The Trump administration is urging Congress to reauthorize an intelligence surveillance law set to expire at the end of the year.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats wrote a letter Monday to top Republicans and Democrats in Congress, asking them to not only reauthorize it as it’s written, but make it a permanent fixture in the law books.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the government to collect information about militants, people suspected of cyber crimes or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other foreign targets outside the United States. Intelligence and law enforcement officials say the act is vital to national security.
Section 702 of the act permits the government, under the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to target non-Americans outside the United States.
“Section 702 may not be used to intentionally target a U.S. person located anywhere in the world, nor may the law be used to intentionally target any person, regardless of nationality, who is known to be located in the United States,” they wrote.
Procedures are designed to protect the privacy of Americans whose communications may be incidentally acquired, although lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and privacy advocates argue that such communications are being swept up in the program.
Most Republican and Democrats want the surveillance tool to continue, but some think it should only be renewed for a specified period of time so it can be periodically reviewed. Others want to see Congress include provisions to ensure the surveillance does not violate Americans’ privacy.
No bill to reauthorize Section 702 has been introduced in the House, but lawmakers there are expected to keep the authority from expiring. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced a bill in June that would reauthorize Section 702 permanently.