FBI’s use of foreign intelligence driving privacy debate

The Counterintelligence Division is home to the spy catchers of the FBI.

WASHINGTON – The FBI’s use of foreign intelligence is at the heart of a heated debate on Capitol Hill about reauthorizing a law that lets spy agencies collect information on non-U.S. citizens abroad.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act is set to expire on Dec. 31.

Lots of legislative proposals are circulating in Congress. They range from leaving the law alone to making big changes aimed at better protecting the communications of Americans that inevitably are swept up in the collection of foreign intelligence.

There’s wide agreement that the law helps protect national security. But some lawmakers and privacy advocates think the FBI should have to get a warrant if it wants to search a foreign intelligence database for information on Americans.

The FBI says that’s an unnecessary burden.