- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 6, 2018

Lawmakers will vote Thursday on a House bill to extend the government’s chief foreign intelligence snooping program.

The bill would extend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act until Dec. 31, 2023. Without an extension, the authority to scoop up communications of foreign targets would expire Jan. 19.

The powers in question allow the government to target foreigners overseas, collecting their communications. But Americans’ communications — even those in the U.S. — can be snared if they are part of conversations that the targets are having.

The House Rules Committee is slated to debate the bill Tuesday, setting up a floor vote Thursday. But it’s unclear whether the bill has enough support.

New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary committee, said he will oppose the bill because it doesn’t go far enough for civil liberty advocates, who wanted serious reforms to protect privacy rights.

“This so-called ‘reform’ bill was written by the intelligence community, for the intelligence community, which is why it fails to accomplish any meaningful reform to Section 702 or ensure our constitutional right to privacy,” Mr. Nadler said in a statement Friday.

The bill allows “abouts” collection, which is when the government scoops up communications that mention a target, even if he or she isn’t the sender or receiver. Abouts collection was halted earlier this year by agreement of the intelligence community and the secret court that oversees FISA law, after they said it was proving difficult to narrowly tailor. The new bill would allow a restart but only after Congress was given a 30-day heads-up.

Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill could allow the surveillance law to “improperly target minorities, government critics, and marginalized communities.”

“This bill is not reform by any stretch of the imagination,” she said. “It leaves the door wide open to abusive surveillance practices that allow the government to search the intimate emails, text messages, and other sensitive data of Americans without a warrant of any kind.”

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