The U.S. House Judiciary Committee is set to consider a reauthorization bill for Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a controversial program that allows the U.S. government to collect digital communications of foreigners located outside the country. But, the program also sweeps up the communications of Americans and allows the FBI to search through data without a warrant using information such as an email address. FBI Director Christopher Wray Defended the program Tuesday, when he invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and said a watered-down program could make it harder for the bureau to respond to threats, Roll Call reports. Congress is considering legislation that would add privacy protections for American information collected under Section 702, which expires at the end of the year.
The reauthorization bill would insert a warrant requirement when it comes to information on Americans, with certain exceptions. The House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to mark up its own reauthorization bill Thursday, which has not yet been released but is expected to have a different level of privacy provisions. Wray’s testimony follows a letter to senators Monday from the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that said Section 702 should not be allowed to lapse, and that a warrant requirement would “severely undercut” use of the authority to warn of terrorist attacks and malicious cyber activity. Privacy advocates and lawmakers in both parties have raised concerns about the apparent breadth of the agency’s use of Section 702 and the agency’s documented compliance issues. Over three years, starting in 2020, the FBI alone searched Section 702 databases for U.S. person information nearly 5 million times.