NSA director pushes Congress to renew surveillance powers

Jan 11, 2023, 10:13 PM | Updated: Jan 12, 2023, 12:26 pm
FILE - U.S. Cyber Command head, National Security Agency Director and Central Security Service Chie...

FILE - U.S. Cyber Command head, National Security Agency Director and Central Security Service Chief Army Gen. Paul Nakasone arrives for a Senate Armed Services hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 5, 2022. Nakasone on Jan. 12, 2023, urged Congress to renew sweeping powers granted to American spy agencies to surveil and examine communications, saying those powers were critical to stopping terrorism, cyberattacks, and other threats. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top U.S. intelligence official on Thursday urged Congress to renew sweeping powers granted to American spy agencies to surveil and examine communications, saying they were critical to stopping terrorism, cyberattacks and other threats.

The remarks by Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency, opened what’s expected to be a contentious debate over provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that expire at year’s end. The bipartisan consensus in favor of expanded surveillance powers in the years after Sept. 11 has given way to increased skepticism, especially among some Republicans who believe spy agencies used those powers to undermine former President Donald Trump.

The new GOP majority in the U.S. House has already formed a panel on the “weaponization of the federal government.” And progressive Democrats have pushed for more curbs on warrantless surveillance.

The NSA and other spy agencies use authorities under FISA’s Section 702 to collect huge swaths of foreign communications, which also results in the incidental collection of emails and calls from Americans. The law prohibits spy agencies from targeting Americans and requires the FBI to seek a court order to access a U.S. citizen’s communications.

Section 702 was first added to FISA in 2008 and renewed for six years in 2018, when Trump originally tweeted opposition to the program but then reversed himself.

Nakasone argued the law “plays an outsize role in protecting the nation” and generates “some of the U.S. government’s most valuable intelligence on our most challenging targets.”

He gave several broad examples of that work, including the discovery of attempts to steal sensitive U.S. technology, stopping the transfer of weapons components, preventing cyberattacks, and “understanding the strategic intentions” of China and Russia.

“We have saved lives because of 702,” Nakasone told a virtual meeting of the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

The general said he could not publicly share more details about the impact of that surveillance, acknowledging that also limited his ability to make his case. Civil liberties advocates have long criticized the secrecy of intelligence court proceedings and the power agencies have to collect years of incidental data on Americans.

Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said Congress had created an effective “national security exception to the U.S. Constitution.”

“The American people and indeed people all around the world have lost the ability to have a private conversation over digital networks,” she told the board. Section 702, Cohn said, “was a mass monitoring infrastructure that subjects people’s communications to NSA review.”

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee and other national security hawks are expected to push GOP colleagues to support a renewal this year accompanied by still-unspecified changes.

“We’ve got to have a discussion within our own caucus, but I feel good about the groundwork we’ve laid,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican who will lead the House’s new select committee on China, in an interview this week. “There’s serious and legitimate concern. And so part of the process of getting renewal is to put in place reform that gives people confidence that there won’t be abuses in the future.”

In December 2019, the Justice Department’s inspector general found the FBI had withheld key information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as it applied for warrants to monitor the communication of Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide. But the inspector general did make clear the extent to which agents relied during that process on uncorroborated allegations compiled by a former British spy.

The chief judge of that court would issue an unusual rebuke to the FBI, saying it had made “unsupported” representations as it submitted the eavesdropping applications and had failed to provide other information that would have weakened the government’s case for surveillance.

Responding to the scrutiny, the FBI announced a series of changes designed to ensure that its applications to the court, which approves warrants to eavesdrop on American soil on people suspected of being agents of a foreign power, are more accurate.

Congress in 2020 let expire three provisions of the Patriot Act that the FBI and Justice Department had said were essential for national security, including one that permits investigators to surveil subjects without establishing that they’re acting on behalf of an international terrorism organization. A bill renewing those authorities passed the Senate, but Democrats pulled legislation from the House floor after Trump and House Republicans turned against the measure and ensured its defeat.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - The Starbucks logo is seen on a storefront, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston Starbucks repor...
Associated Press

Starbucks misses sales, revenue estimates as China falters

Starbucks reported lower-than-expected sales in its fiscal first quarter, with COVID store shutdowns in China overshadowing stronger results elsewhere.
11 hours ago
The Amazon DTW1 fulfillment center is shown in Romulus, Mich., April 1, 2020. Amazon reports financ...
Associated Press

Amazon beats Q4 revenue estimates, but profits slump

Amazon on Thursday reported worse-than-expected profits, but its revenue beat expectations boosted by sales in North America businesses and the cloud-computing unit AWS.
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Washington’s low-income tax credit available for first time

 Up to $1,200 is now available for thousands of low-income working Washington residents, thanks to a 2008 law that has finally been funded.
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Family of Minneapolis man killed in no-knock raid sues city

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The parents of Amir Locke, who was shot to death by a Minneapolis police officer when a SWAT team executed a no-knock search warrant one year ago, sued the city and the officer Friday, alleging he was “gunned down in cold blood” in violation of his constitutional rights. Locke, 22, who was […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Skull found in ’97 in remote Alaska belongs to New York man

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A skull found in a remote part of Alaska’s Interior in 1997 belongs to a New York man who likely died in a bear mauling, state authorities said. Investigators used genetic genealogy to help identify the remains as those of Gary Frank Sotherden, according to a statement Thursday from Alaska state […]
1 day ago
The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, by the City of Memphis, shows Tyre Nichols leaning ...
Associated Press

Licenses suspended for 2 fired EMTs in Tyre Nichols death

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee board on Friday suspended the emergency medical technician licenses of two former Memphis Fire Department employees for failing to render critical care to Tyre Nichols after he took a beating from police that ultimately killed him. The suspensions of EMT Robert Long and advanced EMT JaMichael Sandridge build on […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
NSA director pushes Congress to renew surveillance powers