Editor’s Note: Portions of this article appeared in a paper prepared by the author for The Federalist Society.
Only two months remain before the most important operational statute in the national security area expires. Yet Congress struggles to agree on the terms of any extension.
Republicans and Democrats in both the Senate and House broadly concur that Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which lapses on April 19, is of critical value. Even so, there’s widespread acceptance of the need for some level of reform, in part to address past abuses of the statutory authority by the FBI. Members of Congress are sharply divided, however, over whether to amend the statute to require the FBI to obtain a court order before it looks in its computer database for Americans’ information incidentally acquired under that section.
While such a proposal might seem attractive, it’s misguided. Requiring the FBI to get a court order before it looks at its own legally acquired information is not just unnecessary but also, and more importantly, dangerous to our national security.