Senate Passes Two-Year Extension of Surveillance Law Just After It Expired

The Senate early on Saturday approved an extension of a warrantless surveillance law, moving to renew it shortly after it had expired and sending President Biden legislation that national security officials say is crucial to fighting terrorism but that privacy advocates decry as a threat to Americans’ rights.

The law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, had appeared all but certain to lapse over the weekend, with senators unable for most of Friday to reach a deal on whether to consider changes opposed by national security officials and hawks.

But after hours of negotiation, the Senate abruptly reconvened late on Friday for a flurry of votes in which those proposed revisions were rejected, one by one, and early on Saturday the bill, which extends Section 702 for two years, won approval, 60 to 34.

“We have good news for America’s national security,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic majority leader, said as he stood during the late-night session to announce the agreement to complete work on the bill. “Allowing FISA to expire would have been dangerous.”

In a statement, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland praised the bill’s passage, calling Section 702 “indispensable to the Justice Department’s work to protect the American people from terrorist, nation-state, cyber and other threats.”

Ahead of final passage, the Senate rapidly voted down a series of amendments proposed by privacy-minded lawmakers. Approving any of them would have sent the bill back to the House, allowing the statute to lapse for a more significant period.

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