The White House reportedly wants to renew a controversial spy law, without reforms, which may see intrusive spy programmes such as Prism and Upstream extended. The classified details of these programmes were disclosed by Edward Snowden in 2013. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) has previously been criticised by privacy and civil advocates, for enabling intrusive spying of US citizens.
Parts of Fisa, including Section 702, which authorised spy programs like Prism and Upstream, are set to expire at the end of 2017, unless reauthorised by Congress. However, the Trump administration has reportedly indicated that it will support its reauthorisation.
According to a White House official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, the White House believes that Fisa's "clean reauthorisation" is "necessary to protect the security of the nation," Reuters reported.
Snowden's disclosures revealed that Prism and Upstream were some of the most intrusive surveillance programmes run by the NSA. While Prism collected private data, including messages from Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and others, Upstream enabled the NSA to copy and search web traffic data flowing through the US, from the "backbone" of the internet.
Although Fisa was intended to oversee spy programmes targeting foreigners, data pertaining to Americans was also collected, without warrants, as part of its sweeping surveillance. However, it still remains unclear as to how many Americans were affected by the spying.
Republican and Democrat lawmakers have called for reforms to Section 702, in efforts to ensure that US citizens' data and privacy are not violated. The US House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee reportedly met on 1 March to discuss possible changes to the spy law.
A day prior to the meeting, Senator Dan Coats, Trump's nominee for director of national intelligence (DNI), reportedly told a Senate panel that he would "do everything I can" to make public the figure of the number of Americans whose data has been caught in the crosshairs of Fisa's spy programmes. Deeming Section 702 as the "crown jewels" of the intelligence community, Senator Coats added that considering changes to the law is necessary.