House Approves Bill To Renew Spying Powers

Courtesy Tribune News Service

Courtesy Tribune News Service

Civil liberty proponents' warnings of abuse were strengthened when National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified documents in 2013, revealing the extent to which the intelligence community was in fact illegally spying on U.S. citizens.

Before passing the bill, the House rejected an amendment sponsored by Michigan Republican Justin Amash and California Democrat Zoe Lofgren that would have required the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain court warrants before querying the Section 702 program's database of the emails, internet searches and other communications of people in the USA that are incidentally collected as part of surveillance targeting suspected terrorists overseas.

The 256-164 vote effectively retains the status quo and undermines a multi-year effort to bring accountability to a program that critics argue breaks the Constitution.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Thursday he meant to do "everything in my power, including filibuster", to impede the bill next week, but he is unlikely to block the bill's eventual passage.

President Trump sent mixed signals about a controversial surveillance law in a pair of Thursday-morning tweets, just hours before the House of Representatives voted to extend the provision. Vega followed up by asking what Trump meant about how his 2016 campaign was "so badly surveilled and abused" under FISA during the election.

The second missive stated, "today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land". "We need it! Get smart!" he tweeted. "We'll see what happens", Trump said in a news conference.

Asked about Trump's tweets, Kelly insisted the tweets did not make passage of the bill "more hard", but conceded, "It's a juggling act".

Former FBI Director James Comey said that Section 702 was a "vital" tool for American safety and urged Congress to reauthorize it.

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Less than two hours later, President Trump tweet once more, seemingly walking back his earlier comments on the reauthorization of FISA. Missouri Sens. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, and Roy Blunt, a Republican, voted in favor.

The bill will now move to the Senate, which will likely pass it before it expires next Friday.

"The president supports the 702".

But the fate of the programme appeared to be in jeopardy on Thursday, after the president tweeted his doubts about it, questioning his administration's position after seeing a segment about it on Fox News. But FISA can also issue out surveillance orders, authorized by the president, without a warrant from a FISA court, for up to one year.

What is the FISA Act, and what's Section 702?

The original FISA Act passed in 1978. He said the surveillance was used "to understand what people were planning overseas and what they were trying to do here in America, so that we could connect the dots and stop that particular terrorist attack", Ryan said.

Cole disagreed, saying the bill protects the privacy of American citizens.

By the afternoon, Sarah Sanders, the presidential press secretary, began defending the White House about the confusion. He is the author of nine books on the U.S. Constitution. "Unfortunately, 55 Democrats, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, lent their support to legislation - and implicitly signed on to the racist, xenophobic language used by the Intelligence Committee majority - that expands domestic surveillance and gives reason for every American to be fearful of their government".

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