House Intelligence Committee members are warning they won't renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act until they understand how classified information identifying Trump administration officials was leaked to the media, the Washington Examiner reported on Tuesday.
The act gives the intelligence community the right to eavesdrop on communications of foreigners outside the United States.
The surveillance tool is set to expire at the end of 2017. Its purpose is to provide intelligence officials added capabilities to prevent terror plots and other threats, but it also gives authority to monitor U.S. citizens swept up in the communication with foreigners who are under surveillance, such as in the case of ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn's name was exposed and leaked to the press, one of several such disclosures that has upset GOP congressmen who would usually support renewing Section 702. Some Republicans contend that the leaks were done for political purposes by Obama administration officials and holdovers in an attempt to harm the Trump administration, further emboldening the opposition to continuing the provision.
The Republican anger at the situation is key, because there is usually a bloc of Democratic opposition to the provision, meaning that Republican support is necessary to renew it, as was the case the last time Section 702 was reauthorized in 2012.
Although many Democrats have been very critical of Flynn, they consider his case a classic reason to oppose the provision. Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu wrote a letter to the House Intelligence Committee chairman after Flynn's resignation, stating that "Since its inception, FISA's Section 702 has too often been used as a vehicle to engage in activities violating the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans. We urge you to join us in reforming the law to ensure that the activities of our intelligence agencies do not violate our constitutional rights."
Congressmen in both parties are demanding that the intelligence agencies show how often American citizens are monitored under Section 702.
However, the intelligence community has stressed that the renewal of the provision is a top priority, The Hill reports.
Greg Brower, who heads the FBI's office of congressional affairs, insisted that "I'm not sure that there's a program in the national security area that has a more robust compliance regime than FISA and certainly Section 702. There's compliance requirements and review after review after review."
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