Senate Approves 77-day Extension of FISA Courts Surveillance Powers

The Senate on March 16 agreed to a 77-day extension of a set of FBI surveillance tools under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that had expired Sunday night, to allow lawmakers time for further negotiations on necessary reforms to the powerful domestic eavesdropping program that saw wiretapping of individuals in the Trump campaign.

The measure, which extends and updates domestic surveillance rules under FISA, is retroactive to Saturday. It must still pass the Senate and requires the signature of President Donald Trump before it can become law.

The Senate had been scheduled to hold an initial procedural vote on Monday evening on a bill passed in the House of Representatives last week that would have reauthorized and reformed some of the program.

Instead, senators, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), unanimously agreed on the temporary extension to allow further consideration for amendments to the House bill.

The role of the FISA Court has become a subject of controversy.

President Donald Trumps supporters have called for FISA reforms after the Justice Departments Inspector General Michael Horowitz in December 2019 issued a scathing report that faulted the FBI for “at least 17 significant errors and omissions” in applications submitted to the FISA court when it sought to wiretap Trumps former campaign adviser Carter Page as part of its investigation into alleged contacts between Trumps campaign and Russia—a narrative that has since been discounted by the Mueller Report.

Trump, who is convinced that surveillance tools covered by the legislation were improperly used against his 2016 campaign, has demanded tighter controls on authorities allowed under the law.

Backers of the program consider it an essential tool for intelligence agencies efforts to fight terrorism.

The bill passed in the House was written with Attorney General William Barr, considered one of Trumps strongest defenders. But it failed to pass opposition in the Senate without votes on the amendments.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is expected to push for a Senate vote on a proposal to block FISA warrants from being used against Americans. Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is expected to propose an amendment that would strengthen legal protections for targets of surveillance, The Hill reported.

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Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), who serves on the Senate Intelligence CoRead More – Source

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