Head of FBI will caution that ending FISA’s 702 would result in ‘unilateral disarmament’

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FBI Director Christopher Wray will urge a Senate committee on Tuesday to renew the U.S. government’s authority to conduct warrantless surveillance outside the United States. He will argue that not doing so would be a “form of unilateral disarmament.”

Wray is expected to highlight threats from Iran and China as he argues that the broad surveillance powers granted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, set to expire at the end of the month, are crucial to U.S. national security.

“Stripping the FBI of its 702 authorities would be a form of unilateral disarmament,” Wray will tell the Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing, according to excerpts of his testimony released by the FBI.

The U.S. government’s surveillance powers have faced scrutiny from lawmakers on both sides, particularly regarding federal law enforcement’s ability to access data on U.S. citizens obtained through surveillance of foreign targets.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation last month to impose new limits on searches of Americans’ communications and prohibit “backdoor” searches that use foreign intelligence justifications to spy on Americans.

U.S. officials have opposed new warrant requirements, arguing that information collected under Section 702 has been critical in countering cyber threats and thwarting foreign intelligence operations directed against the United States.

Wray plans to assure the Senate panel that the FBI will be “good stewards of our authorities,” and will cite reforms the FBI has made in response to criticism of law enforcement’s use of the law.

Wray, appointed by former President Donald Trump, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee following criticism from congressional Republicans on various issues, including the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the probe of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and claims that the FBI pressured social media companies to censor conservatives.

© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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