Efforts to estimate scope of FISA intrusion on Americans halts under Trump administration

Efforts to estimate scope of FISA intrusion on Americans halts under Trump administration
Efforts to estimate scope of FISA intrusion on Americans halts under Trump administration

The Obama administration was on track to come up with an estimate of how many Americans’ information is snared by the government’s foreign surveillance — then the Trump administration took over and things got bogged down.

Now that has turned into a significant hiccup as the intelligence community asks Congress to renew those surveillance powers before they expire at the end of the year.

Some powerful members of Congress have demanded that the Trump administration restart efforts to come up with an estimate, saying Americans deserve to know who, exactly, is being caught up in the U.S. dragnet on electronic communications.

Without it, some of them say, it could be tough to continue the surveillance programs — or at least will require some serious restrictions.

“Congress must reauthorize the program, but knowing the scope of incidental collection will help us determine what, if any, additional privacy protections are needed to ensure we honor the Fourth Amendment,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican who has been at the forefront of these issues since writing the original Patriot Act in 2001. “If the administration does not disclose the scope of the intrusion, Congress should assume the worst and pursue more restrictive protections for Americans’ data.”

The issue stems from intelligence gathered under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the government to collect information from foreign sources. No American, and no person inside the U.S., is to be targeted.

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