The law that supports the NSA/FBI warrantless surveillance program, the FISA Amendments Act Section 702, is set to expire on December 31, 2017, if Congress does not act to extend it. There are a proliferating array of rival bills to do so, some with modest reforms, some with sweeping reforms, and some with scant or no reforms. As things stand, without a month to go, it’s highly uncertain what is going to happen. There’s clearly a desire among some Senate leaders (e.g. Senator Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who leads the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) to jam through a “clean” extension or to make it permanent without reforms, perhaps by attaching it to a bill to keep the government open. But it’s not clear that would pass the House, where a subset of Republicans (plus many Democrats) are insisting on new limits to protect Americans’ privacy. Tick tock!
Anyway, on Wednesday evening, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence added its own version of a no-serious-reforms bill to the pile. On quick read for two particular markers, the HPSCI bill, which would extend 702 by four years through December 2021, does not impose a warrant requirement to query the repository for information about an American and does not bar the NSA from turning “abouts” collection back on (but rather requires notice to Congress).
It also expands the definition of a permissible FISA foreign power target to explicitly include transnational malicious hacking organizations that are not primarily made up of Americans, i.e. removing any need to be able to peg it to a foreign state or terrorist group.