Biden signs bill to reauthorize FISA warrantless surveillance program for two more years

The Senate voted on Friday to approve the renewal of Section 702.

REUTERS / Reuters

President Biden this weekend signed into law a bill that reauthorizes a controversial spying program under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Section 702 of FISA, which has now been extended for two more years, allows for warrantless intelligence gathering on foreign targets. While its focus is on the communications of targets located outside the US, that includes any exchanges with people stateside, meaning Americans’ records can get swept up in these collections too.

The Senate vote on reauthorizing Section 702 came down to the wire. It was set to expire on Friday at midnight, but was recently given an extension until April 2025, according to The New York Times, lest it lapse while disagreements over proposed amendments dragged on. Section 702’s extension period was also shortened, cutting it down to two years instead of the previous five. Congress did ultimately miss the deadline on Friday, but it passed with a 60-34 vote, CBS News reported. The White House issued a statement not long after saying the president “will swiftly sign the bill into law.”

Section 702 was first signed into law in 2008 and has been renewed twice already, allowing US intelligence agencies to use data from internet and cell phone providers without a warrant to keep tabs on foreign targets’ communications. It’s faced strong opposition from both sides over its implications for Americans’ privacy. Kia Hamadanchy, senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), called the passage of the bill “profoundly disappointing” in a statement released over the weekend, going on to say that it “gives the government more ways to secretly surveil us — with little power to hold spy agencies accountable.”

“Senators were aware of the threat this surveillance bill posed to our civil liberties and pushed it through anyway, promising they would attempt to address some of the most heinous expansions in the near future,” Hamadanchy said. “We plan to make sure these promises are kept.”

Update, April 21 2024, 1:21PM ET: This story has been updated to include a statement from the ACLU.