Back-to-Back Russia Hearings Begin Today in The Senate

Kari Scott
June 10, 2017

But today, four current intelligence officials are discussing amendments for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - or FISA - and are expected to also be questioned on the Russian Federation investigation.

Director of national intelligence Dan Coats, NSA director Mike Rogers, acting Federal Bureau of Investigation director Andrew McCabe, and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein testified at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, unified behind a legislative effort to ensure the government maintains its sunsetting foreign surveillance and data collection capabilities.

"We can not allow adversaries overseas to cloak themselves in the legal protections we extend to Americans", White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert wrote in an editorial published in the New York Times newspaper on Wednesday. Burr asked NSA Director Mike Rogers, who replied that there had not been, and said that if Section 702 collection was not authorized, the NSA would be unable to identify and prevent critical threats to USA national security.

Section 702, which authorizes the collection of data on foreign persons overseas who use United States tech and communications services, was the legal basis for the so-called PRISM surveillance program, which reportedly taps data from nine tech titans including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others.

This week, the Trump administration backtracked, catching lawmakers off guard and alarming civil liberties advocates who say it is critical to know as Congress weighs changes to a law expiring at the end of the year that permits some of the National Security Agency's most sweeping espionage.

Fourteen Republican senators, including every Republican member of the intelligence panel, are backing a bill introduced on Tuesday that would make Section 702 permanent.

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Coats and other officials had previously told Congress they would attempt to share an estimate publicly before the statute expires.

He told lawmakers it is "infeasible to generate an exact, accurate, meaningful, and responsive methodology that can count how often a USA person's communications may be incidentally collected under Section 702". A frustrated Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who has asked for such an estimate for several years, said Coats "went back on a pledge".

Privacy advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have argued against Section 702.

But the move to support the legislative effort was spurned as "out of touch" by the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued that despite the government's assertions that Americans are not directly targeted, that an unknown number of USA citizens - who are constitutionally protected from domestic spying - are caught up in the NSA's surveillance dragnet.

Meanwhile, Thomas P. Bossert, homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President Donald Trump, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times published Wednesday stressing the need to make the law permanent.

Reuters reported in March that the Trump administration supported renewal of Section 702 without any changes, citing an unnamed White House official, but it was not clear whether it wanted the law made permanent.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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