The Senate reached a short-term deal Monday on reinstating national security authorities that expired over the weekend, giving the upper chamber a chance to pivot to debate coronavirus relief legislation.
Senators unanimously agreed to a 77-day extension of three Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act powers in exchange for a debate over amendments to the spy law, which has come under intense scrutiny ever since the release of a scathing Justice Department watchdog report.
Three FISA authorities expired at midnight. These include: “roving wiretap” powers that let agents continue tracking a suspect even if they keep switching burner phones, the “lone wolf” amendment that allows officials to monitor suspected terrorists with possible links to foreign groups, and the “business records” provision that gives investigators the court-authorized ability to collect documents and follow the money in terrorist plots.
The House voted in bipartisan fashion to renew the powers last week, but the Senate failed to vote on the bill before the weekend after Republican leadership rejected Sen. Mike Lee’s proposal to extend the provisions temporarily on Thursday. These specific FISA powers were last reauthorized in 2015 and had been set to sunset in December 2019 but were temporarily reauthorized until March 15.