USA lawmakers seek temporary extension to internet spying program

Without an extension, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which permits the government to scoop up communications of foreign targets, would expire at the end of this month.

If the surveillance reauthorization doesn't get a vote in some form, Section 702 will officially expire at the end of 2017.

Meantime, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned in a press release on Wednesday that a massive data base consisting of decades of intercepted communications of foreign nationals would remain open for warrantless searches by authorities seeking dirt on US citizens under legislation working its way through the US House of Representatives. "It does nothing to check the warrantless backdoor searches of Americans' communications", he added. Senators Ron Wyden of OR and Rand Paul of Kentucky had, meanwhile, vowed to "actively oppose and filibuster" any version of the bill that allowed for a "long-term extension" of Section 702.

"If I was a betting man, I would say that's the most likely outcome at this moment", Cornyn said. "Any reauthorization has to be paired with more oversight, not less".

Lawmakers are expected to approve a short-term extension of the surveillance authority in its current form, keeping it in place until January 19 - that being the same date the short-term budget extension pending before Congress this week is set to expire.

The House was all set to vote on a reauthorization bill this week, which would have extended the program by four years-far beyond the previous one-year reauthorization requirement.

Congressional leaders have long expressed confidence that if they reject the reforms long enough, they will get a flawless reauthorization, since "no one" wants to see it expire.

It is not yet clear whether congressional leaders expect to pass the short-term extension of the surveillance program as part of a must-pass spending bill the House and Senate will vote on this week, or alongside it. Meadows told reporters late Wednesday that congressional leaders were polling the caucus to determine whether there would be enough votes to pass the measures together.

Congress faces a December 22 deadline to fund the government.



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