White House supports renewal of spy law without reforms: official


The Trump administration supports renewing without reforms a key surveillance law governing how the U.S. government collects electronic communications that is due to expire at the end of the year, a White House official said on Wednesday.

“We support the clean reauthorization and the administration believes it’s necessary to protect the security of the nation,” the official said on customary condition of anonymity. 

The law, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), has been criticized by privacy and civil liberties advocates as allowing broad, intrusive spying. It gained renewed attention following the 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Portions of the law, including a provision known as Section 702, will expire on Dec. 31, 2017, unless Congress reauthorizes them.

Section 702 enables two internet surveillance programs called Prism and Upstream, classified details of which were revealed by Snowden’s leaks.

Prism gathers messaging data from Alphabet Inc’s Google , Facebook Inc , Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc and other major tech companies that is sent to and from a foreign target under surveillance. Upstream allows the NSA to copy Web traffic flowing along the internet backbone located inside the United States and search that data for certain terms associated with a target.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said reforms to Section 702 are needed, in part to ensure the privacy protections on Americans are not violated. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to discuss possible changes to the law.

Though FISA is intended to govern spy programs intended for foreigners, an unknown amount of communications belonging to Americans are also collected due to a range of technical and practical reasons.

Such collection has been defended by U.S. intelligence agencies as “incidental,” but privacy groups have said it allows for backdoor seizures of data without proper judicial oversight.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Dustin Volz, writing by Dustin Volz; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Andrew Hay)


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