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Wired.com / Danger Room

In Secret, Senate Panel May Re-Up Vast Surveillance Dragnet

by
Spencer Ackerman

Most of Congress is busy debating whether to raise the debt ceiling. But starting Thursday, Danger Room is hearing, a group of Senators meeting behind closed doors may consider renewing a controversial law permitting widespread government surveillance of Americans’ communications.

That law would be the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which gave the cover of law to President George W. Bush’s warrantless surveillance program. Beloved by the Obama administration, the law is set to expire — not this year, but in 2012.

But the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence may not be so keen on waiting, Congressional sources say. When the committee meets to finalize the fiscal 2012 intelligence authorization bill to the full Senate floor — the bill that approves the activities of the 16 U.S. spy agencies – some senators will push to include a measure re-authorizing the surveillance act.

The so-called “mark-up” process begins on Thursday, though it’s not clear when the committee will complete the bill and send it on to the full Senate. Nor is it clear that the votes exist in the committee to approve a surveillance reauthorization, which goes double for the Senate and House more broadly.

The Obama administration has indicated that it wants the surveillance measure reauthorized — and soon. . . .

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