Published On: Tue, Dec 5th, 2023

FBI Director Wray calls for renewal of key surveillance tool

FBI Director Wray calls for renewal of key surveillance tool
FBI Director Wray calls for renewal of key surveillance tool

FBI Director Christopher Wray urged Congress on Tuesday to renew a surveillance law that provides most of the intelligence that lands on the president’s desk each day. Wray made his plea in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Many Republicans have opposed a renewal of the law — Section 702 of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which expires Dec. 31 — as part of a crusade against the FBI and Justice Department, which they allege has been weaponized against conservatives.

Wray pointed to threats from Iran and China to argue that surveillance powers under the law serve a crucial role to U.S. national security interests.

“When it comes to foreign adversaries like Iran, whose actions across a whole host of threats have grown more brazen — seeking to assassinate high-level officials, kidnap dissidents, and conduct cyber attacks here in the United States — or the People’s Republic of China, which poses a generational threat to our economic and national security, stripping the FBI of its 702 authorities would be a form of unilateral disarmament,” Wray said in his opening remarks.

Wray said the surveillance law is “key to our ability to detect a foreign terrorist organization overseas directing an operative here to carry out an attack in our own backyard.”

“Given the critical importance of 702, we’re committed to being good stewards of our authorities,” he said. “To that end, I’ve ordered a whole host of changes to address unacceptable compliance incidents.”

Wray said he has been “more encouraged” by recent data from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that “shows a 98% compliance rate, and observes that the reforms are ‘having the desired effect.’” He also cited two recent Department of Justice semiannual reports that he said similarly “show a greater than 98% compliance rate.”

Concluding his opening remarks, Wray noted that before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, “well-intentioned policymakers had made the choice to build a wall preventing access to national security information sitting in our and our partners’ holdings.”

He stressed that “allowing 702 to lapse, or amending it in a way that undermines its effectiveness would be akin to laying bricks to rebuild another, pre-9/11-style wall.”

“As the threats from foreign adversaries to our homeland continue to evolve, the agility and effectiveness of 702 will be essential to the FBI’s ability — and really our mandate from the American people — to keep them safe for years to come, and we owe it to them to make sure we’ve got the tools we need to do that,” he said.

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