FISA is the focus, but given the lineup, you can expect some questions relating to President Trump and the Russian Federation investigation and some previews of what to expect from tomorrow's hearing, when former FBI Director James Comey will testify before the same committee.
Congress is expected to vote on the reauthorization effort later this year before it expires on December 31.
The administration officials - Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein - will testify that Section 702 is an essential national security tool to stop terrorism, a view most of the intelligence committee agreed with.
A bloc of conservative senators support that move, setting the stage for what is likely to be a contentious debate with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives who want transparency and oversight reforms to Section 702 and a limit on searches of USA communications. 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 U.S. national security.
Fourteen Republican senators, including every Republican member of the intelligence panel, are backing a bill introduced on Tuesday that would make Section 702 permanent. It followed an op-ed for The New York Times by homeland security advisor Tom Bossert, who said that the statute was crucial in helping to "thwart terrorist attacks around the world".
It should go without saying: if the Intelligence Community is truly anxious about the privacy and civil liberties of ordinary Americans, officials will take the looming Section 702 sunset as an opportunity to give lawmakers the information they need to have an informed and meaningful debate about how government spying programs impact Americans' privacy.
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For more than a year, US intelligence officials reassured lawmakers they were working to calculate and reveal roughly how many Americans have their digital communications vacuumed up under a warrant-less surveillance law meant to target foreigners overseas.
The comments were made during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
Despite a promise from Obama's director of national intelligence James Clapper and a pledge by Coats, his successor, during his confirmation hearing earlier this year, neither administrations have confirmed how many Americans have had their data incidentally collected. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden asked Coats.
Privacy advocates criticized the push to make Section 702 permanent, arguing that regular reviews of the law were necessary to conduct appropriate oversight and prevent potential abuses.
- A hypocritical move: from Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU Legislative Counsel: "President Trump thinks surveillance is just 'terrible.'".