- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2017

The nation’s top security officials said Thursday if Congress fails to reauthorize the government’s chief foreign intelligence snooping authority the “country will be less secure.”

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.

The issue has become entangled with other year-end business on Capitol Hill, including a new stopgap spending bill, action on the Children’s Health Insurance Program and a new disaster relief bill to pay for recovery from this fall’s hurricanes.

“If Congress fails to reauthorize this authority, the Intelligence Community will lose valuable foreign intelligence information, and the resulting intelligence gaps will make it easier for terrorists, weapons proliferators, malicious cyber actors, and other foreign adversaries to plan attacks against our citizens and allies without detection,” said Dan Coats, Director of the National Intelligence, in a joint statement with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers.

The officials said they are open to reforms in order to keep the tool in play.

“We believe Congress got it right in 2008 when it passed Section 702 and in 2012 when Congress reauthorized it. Nevertheless, the Intelligence Community continues to be open to reasonable reforms to Section 702 to further enhance the already-substantial privacy protections contained in the law,” they said.

Their statement comes after civil liberty advocates and members of Congress have called for stricter privacy reforms to protect Americans’ communications.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, has said he would filibuster any long term extension of the snooping powers.

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