House Republicans Unveil Measure to Reauthorize, Reform FBI’s Controversial Surveillance Tool

FBI cyber crime agents, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

House Republicans introduced a measure Monday to reauthorize and reform one of the FBI’s most controversial surveillance tools. 

Late last year, the House temporarily extended Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), which allows the bureau to conduct warrantless surveillance abroad. 

FISA is set to expire in April. 

Under the proposed new legislation, the number of FBI employees who could use the database would be severely limited, The Hill reports

The legislation stops short of requiring a warrant, but it does mandate that law enforcement obtain a warrant to search the database for evidence of a crime. 

The legislation also is intended to protect members of Congress and other high-profile officials. One provision would require the bureau to alert a member of Congress if they’ve been searched in the database. 

Republicans and Democrats have expressed concerns that Section 702 would be used to gather information on Americans. 

Last year, the three-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, an independent agency within the executive branch, said the bureau and other government agencies should receive court approval to review communications of U.S. citizens collected through Section 702. 

The White House supports the reauthorization of FISA, saying the program is vital to disrupting foreign terror attacks, espionage operations, and cyberattacks. 

But opposition has been mounting after recent revelations that FBI employees violated their own standards when they used the technology. 

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