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Lawmakers reach deal to temporarily extend major federal surveillance program

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WASHINGTON — Lawmakers have reached an agreement to temporarily extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), three sources told NBC News, a move that could save the intelligence community from losing a key tool when it will expire at the end of the year.

The agreement, which will reauthorize FISA through April, is part of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on the path forward on the annual National Defense Authorization Act. Lawmakers had viewed the NDAA as a likely vehicle for a temporary extension of the program and questions over whether it would fit the package had delayed attempts to finalize the bill in recent days.

The compromise still needs to be finalized into the text of the bill and will need to pass both the Senate and the House. This is expected to happen before lawmakers leave Washington for the New Year, late next week.

Different groups of lawmakers are currently trying to reform FISA, particularly Section 702, which is the method used by U.S. intelligence agencies to process data from phones, emails and other messages of people outside the country. stranger.

Reformers and civil liberties groups say Section 702 is overused to collect large amounts of data without a warrant — including about U.S. citizens whose data is collected when they interact with a foreign target. The FBI, for example, has also been accused of frequently misusing data collected under Section 702 in 2020 and 2021, according to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

A bipartisan bill in the House and Senate, first introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, would establish a warrant requirement for certain investigations.

Lawmakers in favor of the program oppose the proposed reforms, saying they would be unworkable and cause delays in intelligence collection. Section 702, its supporters argue, is a necessary spying power that helps keep America and its allies safe.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, introduced their own reform plan last week.

The temporary extension of FISA until April, included in the NDAA, will give both sides more time to try to find a compromise that can pass both houses of Congress.

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