Week ahead: Lawmakers struggle with surveillance reform

Week ahead: Lawmakers struggle with surveillance reform
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As lawmakers look to close out 2017, the focus in Washington is chiefly on securing a funding deal and the Republican push for tax reform.

However, some cyber-related issues are sure to get attention as lawmakers tussle over reform of a controversial spy law that allows U.S. intelligence officials to conduct surveillance on non-Americans outside the United States without a warrant.

The provision, called Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), is poised to expire at the end of the year.

Lawmakers have signaled they would look to include language in a short-term funding bill that would extend the spy program until January, giving members of Congress more time to hash out a final renewal proposal.

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The Trump administration has pressed Congress for a clean reauthorization of the spy program, describing it as a critical tool for national security.

But civil liberties advocates are alarmed over the incidental collection on U.S. citizens that occurs through the program, pushing for more transparency and privacy controls. 

There are a number of competing proposals in Congress to renew and reform the program, including one pushed by House Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.) that would institute more protections for Americans' data.

Goodlatte described the proposal as striking "a balance that promotes national security and civil liberties" at a hearing Wednesday that featured testimony from Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinGraham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks The damning proof of innocence that FBI likely withheld in Russian probe Conway's husband: 'Banana republic' if Trump got his wish to go after investigators MORE.

Congress faces a Dec. 22 deadline to pass a funding package and avert a government shutdown.

Now that the House has passed a bill to reorganize and elevate the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) cyber mission, all eyes are on whether the Senate will take up similar legislation.

The reorganization, long a priority of House Homeland Security Committee Chair Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today Sixteen years later, let's finally heed the call of the 9/11 Commission  GOP lawmakers urge State Dept. to label cartels as terrorist organizations MORE (R-Texas), has received a strong endorsement from President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE's new Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenHispanic Dems ask for multi-agency meeting on family separations 12 Republican senators defy Trump on emergency declaration  The Hill's Morning Report - Boeing crisis a test for Trump administration MORE, who urged the Senate to pass similar legislation.

However, the proposal faces an uncertain future in the upper chamber, where companion legislation has not yet been introduced.

McCaul's bill, which has bipartisan backing, would replace the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) at DHS with a new operational agency to handle cyber and critical infrastructure protection, called the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Homeland Security Committee told The Hill on Friday that the panel "is reviewing legislation as it relates to NPPD."

McCaul described the legislation as crucial to prioritizing DHS's cyber mission in a recent interview.

"This gives them the authorities they need, that they've been asking us for, for quite some time," McCaul told The Hill.

"The next thing we will be doing is oversight and making sure the capability exists within the department to carry out this very important mission," the Republican lawmaker added. "This threat is ever evolving and getting worse by the day, not better."

President Trump is slated to unveil his national security strategy in an address Monday afternoon at the Ronald Reagan Building, which could include discussion of cybersecurity.

When previewing the strategy on Tuesday, national security adviser H.R. McMaster accused Russia of employing "new generation warfare," referring indirectly to Moscow's intervention in the 2016 presidential election.

"These are very sophisticated campaigns of subversion and disinformation and propaganda, using cyber tools, operating across multiple domains, that attempt to divide our communities within our nations and pit them against each other and try to create crises of confidence," McMaster said.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to downplay the special counsel investigation into potential collusion between his campaign and Moscow during the presidential election, telling reporters Friday that "there is absolutely no collusion."

"I have nothing to do with Russia. Everybody knows it," Trump said before departing to give remarks at an FBI graduation. "That was a Democrat hoax. It was an excuse for losing the election, and it should have never been this way, where they spent all these millions of dollars."

 

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