US to ask court to renew domestic surveillance program before April expiration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Biden administration will ask a court to reauthorize a domestic surveillance program before it expires in April, a U.S. Justice Department official said on Wednesday.

The surveillance program, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allows law enforcement to trawl through intercepts of Americans' communications without a warrant.

The Biden administration will file in March with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew the program before its April 12 expiration, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a statement.

"It is our responsibility to do so to avoid a dangerous gap in collection and to protect the nation's security," Olsen said.

Earlier this month, House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson pulled back on plans for Congress to reauthorize the program, saying he was "still working on consensus" as bipartisan opposition mounted against the plan.

U.S. lawmakers have become increasingly skeptical of the government's claims about domestic surveillance amid signs that officials have been exaggerating its utility.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate committee in December that losing Section 702 would be "devastating" to law enforcement's ability to counter cyber and terrorism threats.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Christopher Cushing)