Senior government officials have revealed to CNN that the National Security Agency, has over the past year conducted surveillance on over 100,000 Foreign Nationals worldwide. The legal surveillance has helped the US thwart terrorist attacks, identify hostile regimes and counter planned attacks according to the officials.

The statute that allows the US government to observe, intercept and store communication from 'Persons Of Interest' outside the US came into being in 2008, courtesy of a Congressional authorization, which is due to expire this December.

The FISA act, 702 surveillance which only allows foreign nationals living outside the US to be put under surveillance has been criticized by some quarters, as communication from US citizens is sometimes intercepted.


By the end of this year, Congress will have the daunting task of deciding to either renew, shelf or do away with the controversial statute.

As of now, an attempt to re-authorize 702 surveillance will face opposition from lawmakers who argue that US' citizens right to privacy will be under threat.

The intelligence community and the government have already started lobbying Congress to pass the statute without any changes, arguing that it contains sufficient checks and balances to protect American citizens from abuse of the statute.

Earlier this month, according to reports by CNN, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wrote a letter to Congress, urging the House to pass the statute as it is. The two cautioned that any changes would hamper its effectiveness which would result in losing the gains the statute has enabled.

Statute benefits

While speaking to reporters on Monday, Coats said that the re-authorization of the statute by Congress was a 'top priority this year to the entire intelligence community'. He also stressed that 702 surveillance was 'irreplaceable', and one of the most important operational statutes that NSA has.

Intelligence officials cited an example where the statute helped them identify and stop a cyber attack threat, in time, from a hostile government against the US.

The 702 surveillance statute was also played a key role in the Istanbul Nightclub attack early this year, as it assisted in locating the perpetrator, thus aiding in his arrest.

All eyes will now be on Congress with hopes from the intelligence community and government, that the re-authorization of the statute will be forthcoming.