Top Cybersecurity Official Fears 'Morning After' if 702 Is Not Re-Authorized: Report

A top U.S. administration official said it's "really important" to him and other White House officials that Congress re-authorize a controversial intelligence collection method known as Section 702.

If the bill is not reauthorized before it's scheduled to "sunset" in December, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Robert Joyce said, "The morning after, we lose a really vital intelligence production capability."

"We are going to be at a higher counterterrorism risk. We are going to lose a capability that informs on a number of national security issues, to include cybersecurity," Joyce told The Cipher Brief Sunday. "It’s really important both to me and Tom Bossert, the Assistant to the President on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. This is such an important tool for counterterrorism. You will hear him endorsing this and the administration endorsing the need for a re-authorization, and a re-authorization that doesn’t change the bill."

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) deals with the legal authority that permits U.S. intelligence agencies to collect information on the communications of foreign intelligence targets -- information that the government says has been used to help uncover terrorist plots. But it also allows for the incidental collection of information on communications of innocent Americans who may be swept up in the surveillance, which privacy and civil liberty groups have said is illegal and ripe for abuse. (In April the NSA said it was changing its rules to narrow 702, to exclude the collection of communications that are "about" surveillance targets, as opposed to communications to or from them.)

In his interview with The Cipher Brief, Joyce, who used to be chief of the National Security Agency's Tailored Access Operations hacking group, said there is no need to "sunset" 702 and that the U.S. government has shown that it has used the authority responsibly.

Primary Source: The Cipher Brief Interview With Robert Joyce