Bill Renewing NSA Internet Surveillance Program Advances Senate, Expected to Be Signed Into Law

The Senate this week made a move to advance a bill that renews a controversial National Security Agency internet surveillance program, Reuter’s reports.

The program, which allows the NSA to monitor a suspect’s internet usage without a warrant, has come under fire by some privacy advocates. The bill was advanced by a margin of one vote.

The advancement comes a few years after a 2013 leak by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed classified information regarding the program’s surveillance measures. Since the leak, many liberal Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans have been trying to redefine the measures by which the program is run.

The bill must now be signed by the senate and U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Otherwise, the program is set to expire on Friday, January 19, though the Reuters report notes that members of the intelligence community have said it could last through April.

If signed, the bill would extend the authorization, formally know as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), for another six years. No significant changes to the NSA’s scope of authority have been modified within the initial draft of the bill.

Last week, the same bill passed the House of Representatives. It was cleared easily by majority vote there.

While the surveillance program is supposed to primarily target foreigners, it incidentally can pick up communications by American citizens, including any communications an American might make with a suspect of interest overseas — without a warrant. This, says privacy advocates, is the program’s main flaw, and some have called into question the authorization’s constitutionality as it relates to American’s data being incidentally collected without a warrant.

Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden are two elected officials very much critical of the program, and subsequently the bill to renew its authorization. In a letter to their fellow senators earlier this week, the two acknowledged that the program in its current form, “without additional meaningful constraints,” could lead to the government collecting data on its citizen without a warrant.

The bill is expected to earn the simple majority vote in the Senate sometime later this week. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law once it reaches his desk.

 

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