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Senate passes reauthorization of key US surveillance program after midnight deadline

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The Senate has voted to reauthorize a key U.S. surveillance law after divisions over whether the FBI should be restricted from using the program to search for Americans’ data nearly forced the statute to lapse
After its midnight deadline, the Senate voted early Saturday to reauthorize a key U.S. surveillance law after divisions over whether the FBI should be restricted from using the program to search for Americans’ data nearly forced the statute to lapse.
The legislation approved 60-34 with bipartisan support would extend for two years the program known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk to become law.
“In the nick of time, we are reauthorizing FISA right before it expires at midnight,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said when voting on final passage began 15 minutes before the deadline. “All day long, we persisted and we persisted in trying to reach a breakthrough and in the end, we have succeeded.”
U.S. officials have said the surveillance tool, first authorized in 2008 and renewed several times since then, is crucial in disrupting terror attacks, cyber intrusions, and foreign espionage and has also produced intelligence that the U.S. has relied on for specific operations, such as the 2022 killing of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
“If you miss a key piece of intelligence, you may miss some event overseas or put troops in harm’s way,” Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. “You may miss a plot to harm the country here, domestically, or somewhere else. So in this particular case, there’s real-life implications.”
The proposal would renew the program, which permits the U.S. government to collect without a warrant the communications of non-Americans located outside the country to gather foreign intelligence. The reauthorization faced a long and bumpy road to final passage Friday after months of clashes between privacy advocates and national security hawks pushed consideration of the legislation to the brink of expiration.

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