The Director of the FBI defended the continued use of a controversial spying authority that expires at the end of the year.
But, in an appearance on Capitol Hill Thursday, Christopher Wray was met with demands that the Bureau act more transparently about how it uses spying tools before any authorities are extended.
Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act sunsets in three weeks. The statute’s expiration could curtail the ability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to conduct powerful forms of surveillance.
“I would implore the committee and the congress not to begin rebuilding the wall that existed before 9/11,” Wray told members of the House Judiciary Committee during Thursday’s oversight hearing.
Constitutional concerns surround Section 702, following the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
In 2013, Snowden disclosed that programs like PRISM and activities such as “upstream” collection — both justified under Section 702 for the purpose of foreign surveillance — result in the seizure of massive amounts of data belonging to American citizens.
Snowden further revealed that government investigators can search those databases, rife with Americans’ communications, without a warrant.
That activity, known as the “backdoor search” loophole, has prompted lawmakers to call for changes to 702 that ensure US citizens aren’t subject to warrantless government searches.
Reauthorization legislation unveiled by the committee in October purportedly works to create a distinction between counter-terror and domestic crime investigation. It would require agents to obtain a warrant before reading the contents of Americans’ communications sucked up into FISA databases.
“We’ve protected the FBI’s ability to access the database for the…