US Defense Intelligence Officials Underscore Need For Key Authorities To Counter Evolving Threats

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By Joseph Clark

Defense intelligence officials underscored this week the critical role authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act serve in defending against foreign adversaries amid an increasingly challenging national security landscape. 

A key provision in the act, Section 702, which allows for collection of electronic intelligence against non-U.S. persons abroad under federal court supervision, is set to expire this month unless reauthorized by Congress.  

In testimony before the House Armed Services’ Intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee on Thursday, three senior defense officials told lawmakers that reauthorizing Section 702 is of utmost importance. 

“FISA section 702 is absolutely critical to our foreign intelligence mission,” said Air Force Gen. Timothy D. Haugh, director of the National Security Agency.  

“There is no substitute for this authority,” he said. “The timely, actionable information it provides cannot be replicated by other means.” 

Congress approved Section 702 in 2008 as part of the FISA Amendments Act. The original act was passed in 1978. The amendments passed in 2008 were aimed at addressing intelligence collections gaps that had emerged from the advancements in technology since FISA was first passed. 

Information collected under Section 702 has been used to protect the U.S. from hostile foreign adversaries, including terrorists.  

Authorities under Section 702 are set to expire on April 19. 

Haugh, who also serves as the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, was joined by Milancy D. Harris, acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kruse, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in urging Congress to approve the reauthorization.

“One of the ways Congress can provide its most effective support and defense of the nation is to reauthorize Section 702 of … [FISA],” Kruse said. “Although DIA does not operate under these specific authorities, our all-source analysis mission, our ability to operationalize intelligence, and our support to Congress is dependent on those who do.” 

The potential expiration of authorities under Title VII of FISA comes as the Defense Department faces rapidly evolving threats throughout the globe. 

The officials underscored the critical role DOD plays in managing competition with China. 

“Our No. 1 priority remains addressing our pacing challenge: the People’s Republic of China,” Harris said. “Our network of regional allies and partners is deep, wide, strong and committed to a shared vision of peace, stability and deterrence.” 

Harris also noted DOD’s continued engagement with allies and partners in supporting Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s ongoing invasion and in responding to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas and emerging threats posed by terrorism in the Middle East.  

“The trajectory and rate of change in the national security arena is perhaps the highest and most consequential we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Kruse said.  

“How we respond matters,” he said. “And our level of innovation, focus and integration must match [that of] our adversaries, stride for stride. We must position ourselves and our capabilities to meet threats we see now and on the horizon and not simply posture to repeat successes of the past.” 

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