THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE summoned a handful of cybersecurity, privacy, and national security experts on Tuesday to lay out the pros and cons of reauthorizing the law the NSA says authorizes it to collect hundreds of millions of online communications from providers like Facebook and Google as well as straight off the internet’s backbone.

The NSA spying programs PRISM and Upstream are ostensibly aimed at “foreign targets” but nevertheless scoop up a potentially vast but non-public number of communications involving innocent Americans, some of which are made accessible to domestic law-enforcement agencies.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008, the authority cited for the programs, will sunset in summer 2017. That gives privacy advocates the same kind of leverage they had in 2015, when the sunset of some Patriot Act provisions led Congress to end bulk collection of domestic phone records.

That was the first and only legislative response by Congress to the wide-ranging revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. Reforming 702 collection would be the second.

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