Reauthorizing Section 702 before it expires is vital to keeping the nation safe. Let us be clear: if Congress fails to act, vital intelligence collection on international terrorists and other foreign adversaries will be lost. The country will be less secure.
There is no substitute for Section 702. If Congress fails to reauthorize this authority, the Intelligence Community will lose valuable foreign intelligence information, and the resulting intelligence gaps will make it easier for terrorists, weapons proliferators, malicious cyber actors, and other foreign adversaries to plan attacks against our citizens and allies without detection. Section 702 has been instrumental in preventing attacks on the homeland and removing terrorists from the battlefield.
To be clear – Congress is not required to make any changes to Section 702. The Intelligence Community conducts and uses 702 collection in a manner that protects the privacy and civil liberties of individuals. Every single court that has reviewed Section 702 and queries of its data has found it to be constitutional. The Intelligence Community’s use of Section 702, which permits targeted surveillance only of foreign persons located outside the United States, is subject to extensive oversight and incorporates substantial protections to protect the privacy and civil liberties of individuals. In short, we believe Congress got it right in 2008 when it passed Section 702 and in 2012 when Congress reauthorized it. Nevertheless, the Intelligence Community continues to be open to reasonable reforms to Section 702 to further enhance the already-substantial privacy protections contained in the law, but we simply cannot support legislation that would impede the operational efficacy of this vital authority.
We also believe it is important that Congress reauthorize Section 702 before it expires on December 31, 2017. Although the current Section 702 certifications do not expire until April 2018, the Intelligence Community would need to start winding down its Section 702 program well in advance of that date. Winding down such a valuable program would force agencies to divert resources away from addressing foreign threats. Short-term extensions are not the long-term answer either, as they fail to provide certainty, and will create needless and wasteful operational complications. We urge Congress, therefore, to act quickly to reauthorize Section 702 in a manner that preserves the effectiveness of this critical national security law before it expires.
Daniel R. Coats
Director of National Intelligence
Attorney General of the United States
Director, Central Intelligence Agency
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Admiral Michael S. Rogers
Director, National Security Agency