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October 24, 2017

Senate Intelligence Committee Passes FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act

King, Cornyn Bipartisan Amendment Strikes Balance to Protect Civil Liberties, Defend National Security Interests

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced that the U.S Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted 12-3 to approve the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, which will extend the sunset of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Act to December 31, 2025. Included in the reauthorization is an amendment Senator King introduced with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) that addresses the procedures by which U.S. intelligence agencies query data incidentally acquired under FISA Section 702 and requires continued review and oversight of FISA Section 702 by the FISA Court, the intelligence community, the Department of Justice, and Congress.

            “At a time of heightened conflict around the world, protecting Americans from national security threats must be a top priority,” Senator King said. “At the same time, our founding principles guarantee the protection of privacy – as outlined in the Constitution –– and must be a primary consideration too. I am pleased the Senate Intelligence Committee has worked thoughtfully together on a bipartisan basis to strike a balance that achieves both.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, first signed into law in 1978, outlines the procedures for the U.S. government to request judicial authorization to collect information on foreign governments, agents of foreign governments, and foreign non-state actors. Senator King’s amendment aims to protect the civil liberties of American citizens whose information is incidentally collected through a FISA authorization.

More specifically the King-Cornyn Amendment:

  • Requires the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence to adopt clear procedures for querying data acquired incidentally under FISA Section 702. 

  • Directs the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence to ensure there is a technical procedure for keeping a record of all FISA Section 702 queries using a known U.S. person identifier. 

  • Requires the FISA Court to annually review the FISA Section 702 query procedures and certify that they are consistent with the Fourth Amendment. 

  • Requires the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence to specifically review the FISA Section 702 query procedures and provide semiannual compliance reports to the FISA Court and the congressional intelligence and judiciary committees. 

  • Authorizes the Department of Justice Inspector General and other relevant Inspector Generals to specifically review the FISA Section 702 query procedures. 

  • Defines a “query” as any instance in which data the government has already acquired is searched using a specific term or terms for the purpose of discovering or retrieving unminimized content or metadata.

The FISA Reauthorization Act also enhances penalties against leakers of classified information, strengthens the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and its ability to hire and deliberate, and enables the FISA Court to more effectively leverage impartial advisers (Amicus Curiae) and technical support.

The bill’s next step will be consideration before the full Senate.


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