Alaska senators vote ‘no’ as Congress renews surveillance law

Photo of U.S. Capitol by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved an extension of the controversial Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, with both Alaska senators voting “no.”

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Section 702 allows the federal government to collect electronic messages and phone records of foreigners overseas without a warrant. Proponents say it’s an important anti-terrorism tool. But privacy advocates warn it sweeps up communications of Americans who are in touch with people in other countries.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a written statement she wanted to consider amendments to ensure the law protects the privacy of Americans while pursuing national security goals.

Sen. Dan Sullivan’s spokesman provided a similar explanation, saying senators had no opportunity to amend the bill to better balance security with Americans’ constitutional rights.

The FISA section was renewed by a Senate vote of 65-34. Rep. Don Young voted for it in the House last week. The bill next goes to the president for his signature.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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