Updated Dec 16, 2023 - Technology

Lawmakers push surveillance debate to 2024

Illustration of the Congressional Dome disappearing in an hour glass

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Lawmakers have officially punted a debate over the renewal of a controversial government surveillance program to the new year.

Why it matters: The decision leaves the program intact without changes until April 19, saving it from expiration at the end of this year.

Driving the news: The House voted Thursday, following a late-night Senate vote Wednesday, to send a must-pass National Defense Authorization Act to President Joe Biden's desk.

What they're saying: "We are relieved and grateful that Congress recognizes that allowing Section 702 to lapse even temporarily would be catastrophic to U.S. national security and the safety of the American people," Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's national security division, said in a statement.

  • "We cannot afford to be blinded to the many threats we face from foreign adversaries, including Iran and China, as well as terrorist organizations like Hamas and ISIS," he added.

Yes, but: Privacy advocates argue that even allowing a short-term extension of Section 702 could allow the intelligence community to take advantage of the program beyond April.

  • Currently, intelligence officials rely on the FISA court to review whether their use of the Section 702 program is legal.
  • Those certifications, which advocates say can be granted in early 2024, could last a whole year.
  • "Including Section 702 in the NDAA not only threatens to perpetuate continuous abuse of FISA into 2025, it imperils the NDAA's passage in the House," Sean Vitka, policy director of Demand Progress, said in a statement.

What's next: Now that the House has officially left Capitol Hill for the rest of the year, expect debate on lawmakers' lingering Section 702 bills to continue in the new year.

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