U.S. lawmaker says House intel panel near
consensus on NSA spy program
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[November 30, 2017]
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Members of the U.S.
House of Representatives Intelligence Committee are close to an
agreement on how to overhaul a controversial National Security Agency
surveillance program and hope to complete legislation soon, the top
Democrat on the panel said on Wednesday.
Representative Adam Schiff said he had proposed a compromise that would
let intelligence agencies query a database of information on Americans
in national security cases without a warrant, but would require a
warrant to use the information in other cases, such as those involving
serious violent crime.
"This would prevent law enforcement from simply using the database as a
vehicle to go fishing, but at the same time it would preserve the
operational capabilities of the program," Schiff told reporters.
At issue is Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,
which allows the NSA to collect vast amounts of digital communications
from foreign suspects living outside the United States. U.S.
intelligence officials consider Section 702 among the most vital of
tools at their disposal to thwart national security threats.
But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by
former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, incidentally gathers
communications of Americans, such as when they compete with foreigners.
Currently, those communications can then be subject to searches without
Congress must renew Section 702 in some form by Dec. 31 or the program
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An aerial view shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters
in Ft. Meade, Maryland, U.S. on January 29, 2010. REUTERS/Larry
Schiff said he believed the compromise would be acceptable to many
lawmakers, as well as the intelligence community and the Federal
Bureau of Investigation. It is similar to legislation backed by the
House Judiciary Committee.
However, there are still deep divides in both the Senate and the
House over what to do about Section 702, as lawmakers balance
demands for more privacy protections with spy agencies' desire to
preserve what they see as a valuable tool.
There are different renewal proposals in the House and Senate. One
Senate bill would not require any warrants, which Schiff said he did
not think could pass the House.
It was not clear whether lawmakers will vote on a standalone 702
bill or whether it would be part of a broader must-pass bill, such
as a spending measure Congress must pass next month to keep the
Another possibility would be a short-term extension to keep the
current surveillance system in place and give Congress more time to
come up with a solution that could become law.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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