US Senate has agreement on FISA reauthorization, will vote on Friday night, Schumer says

By Thomson Reuters Apr 19, 2024 | 9:20 PM

By Jasper Ward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate has reached an agreement to approve the reauthorization of a controversial surveillance program and plans to vote on it on Friday night, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

If the Senate votes to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the House approved last week, it would secure what supporters call a key element of the United States’ foreign intelligence-gathering operation. The law is set to expire at midnight Friday.

“It’s an important part of our national security toolkit and helps law enforcement stop terrorist attacks, drug trafficking, and violent extremism,” Schumer said in a written statement.

FISA has attracted criticism from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who argue it violates Americans’ constitutional right to privacy. The bill was blocked three times in the past five months by House Republicans bucking their party, before passing last week by a 273-147 vote when its duration was shortened from five years to two years.

The White House, intelligence chiefs and top lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee have warned of potentially catastrophic effects of not reauthorizing the program, which was first created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Although the right to privacy is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, the data of foreign nationals gathered by the program often includes communications with Americans, and can be mined by domestic law enforcement bodies such as the FBI without a warrant.

That has alarmed both hardline Republicans and far-left Democrats. Recent revelations that the FBI used this power to hunt for information about Black Lives Matter protesters, congressional campaign donors and U.S. lawmakers have raised further doubts about the program’s integrity.

(Reporting by Jasper Ward in Washington, DC; Additional reporting by Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)