Security

NSA spy program set to expire, unless lawmakers act

House Republicans canceled plans to vote on reauthorizing the NSA surveillance program, with a short-term extension likely to be put in place.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • House Republicans canceled plans to vote on a long-term reauthorization of an NSA surveillance program that would allow the collection of certain communications from US companies.
  • The stalling of the vote could put some tech companies at ease over e-discovery initiatives, but it's likely a short-term extension will be implemented.

The reauthorization of a powerful NSA surveillance program was stalled Wednesday, when House Republicans' plans to vote on the reauthorization were temporarily canceled. The news came from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who told the media that the vote was on hold "for now," and that what would happen next was "above my pay grade," as reported by the Washington Post.

The specific item in question is Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008, which allows the NSA to collect communications (such as emails) from US companies that may have been made with a foreign target of interest.

The roadblocks to reauthorizing Section 702 could be a relief for some tech companies that fear the intense legal process of e-discovery, and the potential negative brand impact that could come from complying with the delivery of such communications.

SEE: Employee privacy policy (Tech Pro Research)

The pause in the reauthorization of the program could also be considered a victory by its opponents, who may see it as an overreach of government power. But, the program isn't completely finished.

As noted by the Washington Post, the House is expected to vote on an extension that would keep the program in place until January 19, 2018. While extending the program is a high priority for the intelligence community, the Post reported, many Republicans are calling for more stringent restrictions on the collection of communication data. If the short-term extension were to come about, it could buy the time needed for the differences to be worked out.

As noted by Engadget, the Senate currently requires the FBI to get a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruling to collect such data. The House proposal would require a court order for criminal cases, on the other hand.

If another formal vote doesn't happen, Section 702 is set to expire at the end of calendar year 2017.

Also see

urveillance.jpg
Image: iStockphoto/bluebay2014

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox