Week ahead: Senate takes up surveillance bill

Week ahead: Senate takes up surveillance bill
© Greg Nash

House lawmakers voted to reauthorize a controversial spy program on Thursday after President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE's tweets threatened to upend the vote.

Attention now shifts to the Senate with a vote likely in the coming week.

The House approved the bill reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) after striking down an amendment that would have put new limits on the spy program. It allows the intelligence community to collect data on foreign targets outside the United States without a warrant.


Privacy and civil liberties advocates have long been pushing for more controls on how the government uses information incidentally collected on Americans under the law.

Trump, whose administration has been pushing for a clean reauthorization for several weeks, sent lawmakers into a frenzy in advance of the vote when he appeared to side with those pushing for reforms.

"'House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.' This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?" the president tweeted.

He sent out a tweet clarifying his position about an hour later, saying that he has "personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!"

The debate surrounding Section 702 has been roiled by accusations from Republicans that Obama administration officials improperly "unmasked" members of Trump's transition team in intelligence reports.

The Senate moved to swiftly take up the measure after it passed the House, voting 69-26 to begin debate on it in the coming week. The program is set to expire on Jan. 19 without congressional action.

Reform advocates have slammed the version of the bill that passed the House on Thursday.

"The government will use this bill to continue warrantless intrusions into Americans' private emails, text messages, and other communications," said American Civil Liberties Union policy counsel Neema Singh Guliani. "The Senate should reject this bill and rein in government surveillance powers to bring Section 702 in line with the Constitution."

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulVaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations MORE (R-Ky.) is promising to filibuster the legislation if certain changes are not made. Paul, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats Democrats say they're committed to reducing emissions in Biden plan MORE (D-Ore.) and others say that a warrant should be required for investigators to sift through American communications collected under the law.

The FISA deadline is not the only one that lawmakers face in the coming week. Congress is barreling toward a government shutdown on Jan. 19 if lawmakers cannot agree on a spending deal. Republican leaders said Thursday that the House would consider yet another short-term funding bill to avert a shutdown.

Experts and officials have previously warned of the negative impacts that these short-term deals have on cybersecurity efforts across the federal government.

Monday also marks the deadline for departments and agencies to implement a security tool that cracks down on fraudulent emails. The Department of Homeland Security in October announced that it would mandate the use of the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) across agencies that operate .gov domains, giving them until Jan. 15 to implement the tool.

DMARC allows organizations to flag emails that fail authentication tests or, when stronger settings are enabled, send the messages to a recipient's spam folder or block them outright.

According to email authentication startup ValiMail, 52 percent of federal domains had implemented DMARC as of Friday. That is up from 47 percent tracked by data security firm Agari at the beginning of the month.

Finally, the coming week could offer crucial updates on congressional investigations into Russia's election interference, with former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon expected to meet with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.


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