On Wednesday, March 1, the House Judiciary Committee held a promising hearing to review Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which expires on Dec. 31, 2017 unless reauthorized. Section 702 authorizes surveillance targeting non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States if a “primary purpose” of the surveillance is to collect foreign intelligence information. Section 702 surveillance programs were among the more prominent surveillance programs revealed in 2013 by Edward Snowden.
After a lengthy, reportedly well-attended classified session with intelligence officials, only a handful of members returned for the open session. But the members who did return made the most of their time; in particular, Representatives Ted Lieu (D-CA), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Ted Poe (R-TX), and Jim Jordan (R-OH) asked many of the right questions and signaled the need for meaningful reforms to 702 to protect civil liberties. Their questions and concerns suggest that Section 702 reauthorizing legislation must include substantial reforms in order to get through the House Judiciary Committee.