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FBI Chief Warns 'Threat from Foreign Terrorists' Has Spiked Since Oct. 7

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on threats to the homeland, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

The head of the FBI is warning of elevated threats of terrorism and is urging Congress to reauthorize a national security spy program.

It comes as Congress debates whether to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – known as FISA. The program permits the collection of electronic data from non-U.S. citizens without a warrant. However, there are concerns among some lawmakers it could also lead to surveillance of Americans. 

The FBI says Section 702 has been pivotal in preventing kidnappings, assassination plots, identifying hackers, and targeting terrorists. Despite its significance, its future hangs in balance as lawmakers debate over provisions to protect Americans' privacy. 

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"Let me be clear, failure to authorize 702 or gutting it with some new kind of warrant requirement would be dangerous and put Americans' lives at risk," said Director Wray. 

Wednesday, Director Wray told a House panel that he has seen "the threat from foreign terrorists rise to a whole another level" following recent attacks by Hamas operatives in Israel on Oct. 7. He warns bad actors could draw inspiration from such attacks in the Middle East.  

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FISA authorizes spy agencies like the CIA, NSA, and FBI to gather data from U.S. tech firms to track national security threats based overseas. This also sometimes results in the collection of data about Americans who may have interacted with these targets. 

"It helps us find out who these terrorists are working with and what they're targeting," said Wray. 

On Wednesday, 19 House Republicans blocked a procedural vote on a bill to reauthorize FISA saying they want warrant requirements that would help ensure Americans' privacy. However, critics say those new measures could slow down the U.S. terror investigations. 

Former President Donald Trump is also opposing the measure, saying the FBI abused FISA to spy on his campaign. 

As the FBI contends with a potential major budget cut, the House is moving toward a vote on a final bill to extend Section 702 for two more years, instead of five, with a new amendment that would include a warrant requirement. 

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