Senate Battle Looms Over House Surveillance Bill

Bloomberg Law: Privacy & Data Security brings you single-source access to the expertise of Bloomberg Law’s privacy and data security editorial team, contributing practitioners,...

By Daniel R. Stoller

A House bid to pass legislation reauthorizing certain electronic surveillance of foreign intelligence targets is already facing a Senate roadblock.

House Republicans are planning a Jan. 11 floor vote on a bill that would reauthorize the surveillance authority for six years. GOP lawmakers are planning to use a Senate-passed bill ( S. 139) as a vehicle to pass a measure closely resembling a bill originally sponsored by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). Regardless of whether the House passes the legislation, its fate in the Senate is unclear at best.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul “will utilize all available tools to stop FISA from moving forward in its current form, which allows the unconstitutional collection of domestic surveillance,” Matthew Hawes, a spokesman for Paul, told Bloomberg Law Jan. 8, referring to the measure scheduled for House action.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also opposes the House GOP measure, Wyden spokesman Keith Chu told Bloomberg Law Jan. 8.

Nunes Confident

Nunes is confident the House will pass the legislation his communications director, Jack Langer, told Bloomberg Law Jan. 8.

The House GOP approach “adequately balances security and privacy and takes into consideration the issues raised by the various committees of jurisdiction over the past several months of negotiations,” Langer said. The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act will likely get enough votes and “is a compromise solution that should be accepted by the House and eventually the Senate,” Langer said

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is used by federal law enforcement agencies to conduct digital communications surveillance on foreigners abroad. Internet service providers, and others, are often served with orders under the law to provide access to such data. The measure was set to expire Dec. 31, 2017 but was extended to Jan. 19 as part of a stopgap spending bill.

Although lawmakers broadly agree that the surveillance authority should be reauthorized, they disagree about whether it should be made permanent and whether additional privacy protections should be added.

Nunes wants to avoid using another stopgap spending bill to extend the surveillance authority, Langer said.

Nunes’ bill would require the FBI to submit a request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) if a search of electronic communications includes a U.S. person, among other changes. The FISC would then have two days to rule on the legality of the query. A similar bill ( S. 2010) cleared the Senate Intelligence Committee Nov. 7, 2017.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bloomberglaw.com

Copyright © 2018 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Bloomberg Law: Privacy & Data Security