May 11, 2020 / 8:01 PM / 19 days ago

Senate to reconsider expired surveillance tools

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters after it was announced U.S. congressional leaders and the White House agreed on nearly $500 billion more in coronavirus relief for the U.S. economy, bringing to nearly $3 trillion the amount allocated to deal with the crisis, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate will make a renewed attempt this week to extend parts of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday, two months after the divisive government surveillance tools expired.

“We must act quickly to clean up the mess and renew these authorities,” McConnell said in remarks opening the Senate session.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives backed the “USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020” extending the provisions in March, shortly before Congress left Washington as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States.

But the Republican-led Senate failed to pass the bill before heading home. Senators instead backed a 77-day extension, but that was not taken up in the House so the three FISA provisions, covering the government’s ability to obtain and retain information, that expired on March 15 have not yet been renewed.

They face stiff opposition from privacy advocates, including liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans. As the Senate considers the legislation this week, it is expected to also vote on amendments meant to rein in the law.

Trump, who is convinced that surveillance tools covered by the legislation were improperly used against his 2016 campaign, has demanded tighter controls.

Backers of the program consider it an essential tool for intelligence agencies’ efforts to fight terrorism.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Richard Chang

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