House Votes to Renew, Expand Authority to Snoop on Americans

Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma listen at right as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. The Trump adm

Trump on Thursday pushed the House to renew a critical national security program that allows spy agencies to collect intelligence on foreign targets overseas.

Moments later, the House reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by a 256-164 margin.

The House Rules Committee is slated to debate the bill Tuesday, setting up a floor vote Thursday. "Spying is valid to find the foreign agents among us, but it's gotta be based on suspicion".

The White House issued a stern statement late Wednesday pleading with Congress not to approve strict limits to the government's foreign spy powers, suggesting that adding civil rights checks could lead to another September 11-style attack.

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". Abouts collection was halted earlier this year by agreement of the intelligence community and the secret court that oversees FISA law, after they said it was proving hard to narrowly tailor.

But what exactly is FISA, and what is Congress set to decide about the law?

President Trump offered a series of confusing tweets about the bill Thursday morning, prompting Democrats to ask for a delay in the House vote.

Trump's position Thursday morning seemed to be in opposition to the Trump administration's position, potentially putting the reauthorization vote in doubt.

The new guidelines on "unmasking" Americans, however, were a side show to the House showdown over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, reauthorizing a collection program set to expire on January 19.

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. "Today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land", he wrote. "We need it! Get smart!", he posted.

The White House on Wednesday had issued a statement opposing an amendment seeking to blunt some of the program's powers and shield communications of Americans who may get caught up in efforts to pick up foreign electronic communications.

The FBI and intelligence agencies say being able to query the database is essential to keeping America safe and the Trump administration had wanted the program to be reauthorized without change.




From time to time, lawmakers have tried to push through warrants into the section, but Shackford noted that experts have explained that "the law was worded so that it applies only if you're a suspect of a crime".

"The Bill of Rights requires that information be gathered under the 4th Amendment with probable cause, and naming the person, naming the papers", Paul said.

And House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called Ryan and urged him to pull the reauthorization bill in light of the President's tweet, a senior Democratic source said.

"You have to realize that all of us are caught up in this", he said.

But a coalition of 44 diverse groups from the liberal ACLU to the conservative FreedomWorks opposed Nunes' bill and supported the Amash-Lofgren legislation.

"And in many ways it expands the federal government's ability to spy on Americans".

House bills in 2014 and 2015 included restrictions, but the language was removed by the Senate.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, said Mr. Amash, despite being an "important voice" from the libertarian side of the debate, got his amendment wrong.

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.

"We don't think there was a conflict at all". A bipartisan group of lawmakers attempted to derail the vote on Thursday by proposing an amendment that would prioritize the privacy of US citizens.

Without congressional action, legal support for Section 702 will expire next week, although intelligence officials say it could continue through April. The law must be changed to account for this, and future presidents.

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