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Group of US Lawmakers Want to Rein in FBI Spying Capabilities

FILE - House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte.
FILE - House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte.

A group of bipartisan United States lawmakers wants to put strong new limitations on federal law enforcement agents’ ability to gather foreign intelligence within U.S. borders.

The bill, which will be introduced Friday by members of the House Judiciary Committee, would require the FBI to obtain a warrant prior to reviewing emails and phone-call transcripts of Americans gathered by the National Security Agency.

“The bill contains new accountability and transparency requirements to address the unmasking of US-person identities which has been a source of great concern for many members and their constituents,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

The new law would put limits on who can access information gathered under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amended in 2008, which House members and those in the intelligence community agree is useful for law enforcement.

Glenn Gerstell, the general counsel at the NSA, recently called Section 702 “the single most important operational statute” possessed by the spy agency.

While Goodlatte agrees about the usefulness of the authority, he said Thursday it is important to set strict guidelines on how and when the authority is used.

“The USA Liberty Act increases oversight of foreign intelligence collection, particularly under FISA Section 702. The bill contains a number of reporting requirements such as providing Congress an update twice a year on the number of US persons whose communications are incidentally collected,” Goodlatte said.

The law was originally passed in 2008 in order to give the NSA more latitude in gathering intelligence on foreign targets. Under the law, the NSA has the ability to target communications of foreigners while searching for counterterrorism and cybersecurity intelligence.

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