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2013-01-03

Smith bill to reauthorize national security provisions

Special to the Courier

The United States Senate approved legislation authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith to reauthorize provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a law that governs the surveillance of foreign terrorists and spies. The FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 - HR 5949 - passed the Senate by a vote of 73-23 on Friday, Dec. 28.
The FISA Amendments Act allows intelligence officials to monitor the communications of foreign terrorists and spies operating overseas more quickly and effectively. The bipartisan bill reauthorizes the FISA Amendments Act for five years.
Smith noted, "Our national security agencies operate around the clock to protect America from foreign terrorist groups and spies. But in order to keep America safe, we must be able to conduct surveillance of foreign terrorists and intelligence organizations. HR 5949 enables the intelligence community to gather information on foreign terrorists overseas, while still protecting the civil liberties of U.S. citizens at home and abroad."
Smith urged President Barack Obama to sign the bipartisan bill to ensure that the intelligence capabilities of the United States is not dismantled leading to increased vulnerability.
In 1978, Congress enacted FISA to provide procedures for the domestic collection of foreign intelligence. However, advances in technology over the last 40 years changed how overseas communications are transmitted. These technological advances also changed how FISA was interpreted to apply to the collection of intelligence against foreign targets.
In 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act to reaffirm Congress' long-standing intent that a court order is not required when targeting a non-US person outside the United States.