White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, Rob Joyce, on Wednesday said that the administration would have to compromise with the Congress on measures to reauthorize the government’s warrantless wiretapping authority – the controversial Section 702 powers.
The Trump administration has pushed against sweeping changes to the surveillance program, referred to as the Section 702, but Joyce said that a permanent, clean reauthorization is unlikely before the larger bill, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), expires at the end of this year.
“I think we got past several months ago of whether we should have 702 or not, I think we’ve got good support on the Hill.” Joyce had said in the remarks at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. “Right now, we’re debating about the edges of how it will be executed.”
Under the existing law, U.S. intelligence agencies can spy on the foreigners abroad who communicate through the American phones and internet providers which could lead to incidental eavesdropping on Americans. The FBI can then search the database of data collected under the Section 702 for information on the Americans who are suspected of a crime without first obtaining a proper warrant.
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee put forth legislation last month to impose further restrictions on the FBI’s ability to query the Section 702 database for information on Americans. The bill would have imposed a warrant requirement with certain exceptions in cases involving espionage or terrorism.
The Trump administration has already pressed the lawmakers to pass a clean bill that would permanently implement the Section 702 without any changes, arguing the program’s importance to safeguarding the national security.
Joyce said that a warrant requirement would slow down the law enforcement’s ability to gather potentially crucial information in emergency situations such as an unfortunate terrorist attack.
“Operationally, we don’t find that viable,” he said while explaining the drawn-out, bureaucratic process of obtaining a proper warrant. “That’s not a robust system in an emergency and then it has a chilling effect on the day-to-day counterterrorism activities.”
Joyce also said that the White House has been working with the lawmakers to “try to get the best bill possible” but predicted the final versions would likely be a compromise between the administration and Congress.