Optimism rises for curtailing FISA in House showdown

Optimism rises for curtailing FISA in House showdown

The Trump administration backed the extension of a surveillance program created to spy on foreign citizens outside the US, but President Trump himself didn't sound so insane about it - suggesting in a tweet Thursday that the law allowed illegal surveillance of his presidential campaign.

The vote, 256 to 164, centred on an expiring law, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which permits the government to collect without a warrant from American firms, like Google and AT&T, the emails and other communications of foreigners overseas - even when they are talking to Americans.

That's the section of the law the House voted today to extend-it's set to expire next Friday, and the Trump administration has argued that renewing it is critical to national security.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Cali., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on the House floor during debate over the FISA bill that House GOP leaders should postpone consideration of the bill in light of Trump's tweets.

But in his first tweet Thursday, Trump wrote: "House votes on controversial FISA ACT today".

President Donald Trump appeared to contradict the official White House position Thursday morning, criticizing the program and suggesting it played a role in the surveillance of officials on his presidential campaign. "This strikes the balance that we must have between honoring and protecting the privacy rights of citizens. and making sure we have the tools we need in this age of 21st century terrorism to keep our citizens safe".

After the House approved the renewal, Paul vowed to fight it in the Senate.

Section 702 does not allow officials to spy on Americans or people in the states, but "the FISA Amendment Act allows the government to collect data from American firms, such as Google or Microsoft".




Press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters there was no contradiction in Trump's tweets on the surveillance program and that he was voicing broader concerns about FISA.

Earlier in the week, Trump had himself signed an order to review the way that Americans caught up by surveillance can be identified - or "unmasked" in the jargon. The Senate must still pass the bill before it is sent to the White House for the president's signature.

Privacy hawks have sought for years to limit that sort of "incidental" collection, while making it harder for the US government to tap that data as part of their investigations. For instance, the bills would codify into law that 17 law enforcement agencies would be able to access the raw mass surveillance data on both foreigners and Americans, without a warrant.

The USA RIGHTS Act was an attempt to fix some serious privacy problems with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities under Section 702. It would have required the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get a warrant to continue even querying the database when Americans are involved.

The reauthorization is potentially a politically fraught issue on Capitol Hill, and the House is expected to vote on the bill later Thursday. They say the law has already thwarted several terrorist plots against the US, including a planned attack on the New York City subway system.

"Section 702 is a critical tool that the intelligence community uses properly to target non-U.S. person outside of the United States that is vital to US security", he said. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said.

"No one could believe it", another Republican supportive of the FISA reauthorization said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of NY, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the Nunes bill is so "deeply flawed" that it jeopardizes the renewal of the anti-terrorism law altogether.

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