Lawmaker Interviews

Watch: Key Dems doubt Congress will reform surveillance laws 

Two key Democrats doubt the House and Senate will vote on a bipartisan bill to reform U.S. surveillance laws before they expire at the end of the year. 

Instead, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) worries that GOP leaders and the Trump administration will include extending the current Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) laws as written in an end-of-year must-pass spending bill.

“You can easily imagine a scenario in which we’ve reached a bipartisan agreement on the budget, you’ve got the DREAM Act in it and then they shove in a permanent reauthorization of Section 702 with no changes, and then who is going to vote against it? Some people will, but it will pass overwhelmingly,” Nadler, a top-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, told The Hill.

The law authorizing the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program, known as Section 702, is due to sunset at the end of the year.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a member of the Senate Intelligence panel, also questioned whether a reformed intelligence measure would be voted on in the upper chamber.

“If it goes to the floor there’s an opportunity to move an amendment, I don’t know whether it will go to the floor, though,” Feinstein said when asked if the Senate Intelligence Committee-passed bill goes far enough to protect civil liberties.

Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bipartisan measure, “The USA Liberty Act,” co-sponsored by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) to reform the current FISA law.

Nadler said the measure would include more civil liberty protections for Americans whose names may be mentioned during conversations between individuals overseas who are monitored by intelligence officials for counterintelligence purposes under the current surveillance law.

The bill would not allow information that is discovered “about any American … in a criminal investigation at all,” Nadler said, noting that under the current law such information can be used in a criminal case.

Both chambers must pass a reform measure before the end of the year or Nadler predicts the administration will press to leave the current FISA law intact.

Watch the video above to hear Nadler and Feinstein in their own words.

Tags Dianne Feinstein Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Jerrold Nadler

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