House Passes FISA Reauthorization Despite Trump Tweet Criticizing The Program


The House passed a bill Thursday reauthorizing a controversial National Security Agency (NSA) authority to conduct warrantless surveillance against foreign suspects outside of the U.S. This law is used to spy on the emails, text messages, and other electronic communications of Americans and foreigners without a warrant.

Supporters of that bill said it provided much stronger privacy and civil liberties protections for Americans, but opponents said it could hamstring investigators from getting the information they need to foil terrorists. "We need it! Get smart!" the president tweeted. By design, this dragnet includes intimate and private communications with individuals in the US, and very likely disproportionately impacts immigrants, journalists, and global businesses that more frequently engage in overseas communications.

In his tweets, the president also threw in an attack on the investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion with Trump associates. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he intends to block any such legislation in the Senate.

Trump seemed to stray from official administration orthodoxy on three prominent issues of the day: the legislative fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the reauthorization of the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the viability of funding a nationwide infrastructure overhaul through public-private partnerships. GOP leaders had shown some concern over the past few weeks that the FISA measure would have some trouble, particularly because they were relying on some Democratic votes to get the bill over the finish line, but ultimately they had more than enough support.

The program became public in 2008 after the Edward Snowden revelations, and privacy and citizen rights groups have been trying to shut it down ever since, calling it a "backdoor to the Fourth Amendment" that allows United States authorities to sift through U.S. and non-US citizens' private conversations without a warrant.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday night issued a statement asking lawmakers to vote against the legislation with the changes. But he asked that the House postpone today's vote due to what he called the administration's inaccurate, confusing and conflicting comments.

The FISA reauthorization vote passed the House Thursday afternoon - absent the privacy protecting amendment Trump appeared to endorse. In addition, if federal authorities are already investigating a USA person, they may cross-check that person's information against the 702 database.

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Before that he posted: "Disproven and paid for by Democrats 'Dossier used to spy on Trump Campaign". Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told the The Daily Beast that Trump's tweet "threw everything into turmoil".

PELOSI: It's not right to say there is nothing in this bill that protects the privacy of the American people.

"This morning he put out two tweets that were so undermining of what we were trying to do of the floor in terms of FISA", she said.

That's despite his administration expressing support for renewing the program. The Section 702 program was originally approved by Congress in 2008 to increase the government's ability to track and thwart foreign terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Trump charged that the FISA law had been used to get a warrant to spy on his campaign.

"With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land".

The bill as passed by the House would extend the NSA's spying program for six years with minimal changes.