FISA renewal bill clears procedural hurdle in the Senate as deadline nears

A bill that reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act cleared a procedural hurdle on Thursday, paving the way for its passage ahead of a looming Friday night deadline when the intelligence community surveillance tool expires.

The test procedural vote passed 67-32, with a combination of liberals and conservatives voting against. It’s unclear if the renewal will happen before the law lapses on Friday.

“We will try as hard as we can to get reauthorization done today, if not, senators should expect votes tomorrow,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor.

Bipartisan critics of the bill could drag out the procedural clock until Sunday — meaning 702 would lapse temporarily over their weekend — unless they reach an agreement sooner, something they might do if they are allowed votes on amendments addressing their key concerns with the program.

Schumer’s efforts come as Senate critics have had a myriad of complaints about Section 702 of FISA, notably that the government can get access without a warrant to Americans’ data when they are interacting with foreign targets of the law.

Under FISA’s Section 702, the government hoovers up massive amounts of internet and cellphone data on foreign targets. Hundreds of thousands of Americans’ information is incidentally collected during that process and then accessed each year without a warrant — down from millions of such queries the US government ran in past years. Critics refer to these queries as “backdoor” searches.

The trove of data, including a large portion of US internet traffic, is meant to provide US intelligence agencies with quick access to data regarding foreigners in other countries.

According to one assessment, it forms the basis of most of the intelligence the president views each morning and it has helped the US keep tabs on Russia’s intentions in Ukraine, identify foreign efforts to access US infrastructure, uncover foreign terror networks and thwart terror attacks in the US.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court recently OK’d procedures for the program through April 2025, but if the authority lapses on Friday, it is possible that some US companies could refuse to provide the government with data under that certification.

CNN’s Katie Bo Lillis contributed to this report.

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