Top U.S. national security officials on Friday called on Congress to quickly renew a counterterrorism program that lets intelligence agencies intercept the communications of tens of thousands of suspected foreign terrorists living abroad.
“It has become an indispensable tool by which we can determine and game information about threats to the United States, about threats to our troops, about weapons of mass destruction, proliferation, about cyberattacks, about any number of things that threaten the American way and the American people,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Friday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “So the reauthorization of this authority in incredibly critical.”
The government’s authority to use the program expires at the end of December unless it’s reauthorized by Congress, where some members want stricter limits on information that’s picked up about U.S. citizens.
Coats, National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers and FBI Director Christopher Wray were all scheduled to defend the program at the Heritage Foundation event.
The provision that’s expiring is known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The government uses the authority to operate programs like Prism, under which Internet companies are compelled to turn over emails and other electronic communications of suspected foreign terrorists abroad. Prism came to light when former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed classified U.S. spy programs in 2013.
Senators including Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky are demanding new language to ensure the spying doesn’t violate the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens who are on one end of an intercepted communication are mentioned in it.
“The data collected under Section 702 is gathered under an almost limitless standard,” Wyden and Paul wrote in an op-ed column published Oct. 11 by NBC News. “A…