U.S. spies press for renewal of broad electronic surveillance law
* Extension of law is “top priority” for intelligence agencies
Tue Sep 11, 2012
* Senate critics threaten delays over civil liberties concerns
* Secret program sorts through masses of phone calls and emails
By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON, Sept 11 (Reuters) – U.S. intelligence officials made a public plea on Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, for quick congressional action to extend a sweeping but controversial U.S. electronic surveillance law.
Robert Litt, chief lawyer for the Office of Director of National Intelligence, told reporters that winning congressional approval to extend the electronic spying law was the U.S. intelligence community’s “top priority.”
If the law, which expires at the end of 2012, is not extended, Litt said, U.S. spy agencies would lose access to what he described as a “very, very important source of valuable intelligence information.”
Relevant committees of both the House of Representatives and the Senate have approved similar, though not identical, versions of bills that would extend the surveillance law, an updated version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s version would extend it until 2017. A Senate Judiciary Committee version would extend it only until 2015.