The US Senate passed a bill to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) program, including its highly controversial Section 702, which allows warantless spying on non-US citizen terror suspects operating outside the United States. The final vote was 65-34.
The legislation, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week, is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump by Friday. According to reports, from now on special services would require a warrant to spy on citizens in cases not related to national security.
It was prevously reported that the House would consider an amendment, proposed by Republican Congressman Justin Amash, that would ban the National Security Agency (NSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other special services from reading US nationals' messages.
In December 2017, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Christopher Wray and NSA Director Michael Rogers issued a joint statement that read that it was essential that the Congress renewed FISA before the law's expiration on December 31.
"Reauthorizing [FISA] Section 702 before it expires is vital to keeping the nation safe," the statement read. "Let us be clear: if Congress fails to act, vital intelligence collection on international terrorists and other foreign adversaries will be lost. The country will be less secure."
Champions of privacy spoke out against Section 702, claiming that it was used to bypass laws that prevent spying on US citizens and residents without a court order.
One of the most famous whistleblowers, former NSA employee, Edward Snowden was the one to reveal classified documents reporting mass surveillance by US authorities in the United States and other countries.