- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The House intelligence committee announced a bill Wednesday to renew the government’s chief foreign intelligence snooping program with some moderate changes, cutting a middle ground between civil liberties advocates who want major changes and surveillance hawks who say it’s fine as-is.

The bill would grant a four-year reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows intelligence agencies to collect communications of non-Americans outside the U.S.

Without action, Section 702 expires at the end of this year. Most of Washington is committed to a renewal, but there are deep disagreements about how many new constraints to put on the program.

In addition to a four-year renewal — far less than what the intelligence community wanted — the new bill would limit how the information gleaned could be used against Americans.

It also requires the court that oversees the program to annually review the way intelligence officers query the data, and demands more reporting to Congress about how the data is used and what Americans are getting snared in the collection.

“It’s a constant challenge to strike the right balance between security and privacy — this balance must be regularly re-evaluated in response to technological innovations and the evolution of threats to U.S. forces and Americans at home and abroad,” said intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican.

His committee will vote on the bill on Friday.

The measure will compete with a different version that has already passed the House Judiciary Committee, and which imposes even stricter controls on Section 702, including a full ban on so-called “about” collection. That’s a controversial practice in which the intelligence community felt empowered to snare communications that mentioned a target, even if the target wasn’t the sender or receiver.

The House intelligence bill would temporarily suspend “about” collections, but would not prohibit them.

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