“PATRIOTS A GREATER DOMESTIC THREAT THAN ISIS”
The Trump administration endorsed a full extension of the intelligence community’s most controversial snooping powers Wednesday, saying that the public has gotten the wrong impression about tools that are designed to target foreigners but, increasingly, have ensnared Americans as well.
Thomas P. Bossert, President Trump’s top counterterrorism adviser, in an op-ed in the New York Times, said they are backing a new bill introduced this week to permanently extend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — the part of the law that allows snooping.
Mr. Bossert said the public will have to trust the government’s assertions that the program is valuable, since most of its successes have to remain classified. But he said Section 702 intelligence helped thwart the New York City subway bombing plot.
“Simply put, the use of this authority has helped save lives,” Mr. Bossert wrote.
Section 702 allows intelligence agencies to collect vast amounts of information from foreign sources located outside the U.S. as part of antiterrorism investigations. Communications with Americans can, however, be snared.
The section is slated to expire at the end of this year, and security hawks and civil liberties advocates are now battling over whether to extend it.
The Trump administration is backing a full permanent renewal written by Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, who introduced his bill Tuesday along with other major security hawk Republicans.
“We can’t handcuff our national-security officials when they’re fighting against such a vicious enemy. We’ve got to reauthorize this program in full and for good, so we can put our enemies back on their heels and keep American lives safe from harm,” Mr. Cotton said.
But civil libertarians said Mr. Trump seems confused by endorsing a full extension, after he spent months complaining about the Obama administration using some of these tools to spy on his presidential campaign.
Under the law, communications involving Americans are supposed to be tightly controlled. But Mr. Trump’s top security adviser during the presidential transition had communications with Russian figures outed.
The administration won’t say how many Americans have been snared by Section 702 inquiries.
“The government likely holds over a billion communications collected under Section 702, and it is long overdue for Congress to finally pass reforms to curb this invasion of Americans’ privacy,” said Neema Singh Guliani, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union.
POWER CORRUPTS, AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY