House Passes Legislation Renewing Controversial NSA Surveillance Program

Update 3: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been renewed by the House of Representatives. Originally enacted in 1978, the act outlines the lawful procedure for collecting foreign intelligence. FISA Section 702 allows the US government to pull in communications from foreign nationals but does not permit surveillance of US citizens, even if they are suspected of criminality or terrorism. Ahead of a vote to extend FISA for six years, US President Donald

Trump initially hit out at the key intelligence provision, although later updated his stance through a tweet declaring that the country needs FISA.

As Glenn Greenwald notes, this is the list of House Democrats who stood with Trump, Devin Nunes and the NSA to ensure ongoing warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, adding "Note how many of the leading #Resistance leaders are on this list."


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Update 2: Despite having the support of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the so-called Amash amendment - also known as the USA Rights Act - has been rejected by the House.



The chamber will now debate whether to pass the bill as is, which already includes a few small tweaks that marginally strengthen surveillance safeguards.

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Update 1: As the House prepares to reauthorize FISA, Axios reports that Republicans were caught by surprise Thursday morning when the president unexpectedly blasted the FISA act, claiming it helped the Obama administration "surveil and abuse" the Trump campaign.

One source close to the GOP leadership said "I have decided that the only way to stay sane in Trump's Washington is to ignore everything he says."

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As the House prepares to vote Thursday on a measure to extend a package of controversial FISA protections that have been opposed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, President Donald Trump ripped the law in a tweet early Thursday: "'House votes on controversial FISA ACT today." This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?"



...Though he quickly clarified that he was taking steps to reform the unmasking process and that the provision coming to a vote on Thursday  pertained primarily to foreign surveillance.



The final vote on the provision is expected around 11:45 am, according to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

As the Hill explains, the House is set to vote Thursday on renewing what's known as Section 702 of FISA - a law that allows the National Security Agency to collect texts and emails of foreigners abroad without an individualized warrant, even when they communicate with Americans in the US.

Trump’s suspicion of the law stems from Obama-era National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s decision to “unmask” several Trump campaign associates, a decision that may have played a role in the FBI’s decision to launch the Russia investigation.

Some Republicans have speculated that the Obama administration learned of former national security advisor Michael Flynn's calls with Russia's ambassador to the US through Section 702.

The legislation to be considered by the House includes some small changes meant to appeal to critics of the law. It would require the FBI to obtain a court order before reviewing the content of queries for Americans’ information in the database - though an order would not be required to search the database in the first place - and allow such an order only when investigators want to use the information in a criminal case.

A number of lawmakers do not think that goes far enough, however, an a bipartisan amendment, backed by Rep. Justin Amash, imposing restrictions designed to protect Americans who are swept up in government spying on foreigners overseas will also get a vote. The amendment is known as the USA Rights Act.

Amash's language would require investigators to obtain a warrant in order to search the 702 database for Americans’ information in criminal cases.

Officially, the White House rejected proposed amendments that would roll back some of the intelligence-sharing provisions of the FISA Act, and instead asked lawmakers to extend and preserve the provision as is.



As the Hill explains, Trump's White House has been aggressively lobbying for months for a clean, permanent renewal of the 702 authority, which the intelligence community maintains is critical to identifying and disrupting terror plots.

However, while the bill - with the few minor tweaks mentioned above - will likely pass the House, it faces strenuous bipartisan opposition in the Senate.

As the Washington Examiner reports, Sen. Rand Paul is preparing to filibuster the bill in the Senate to try and force a provision that would require the FBI to obtain a warrant to examine data gleaned from incidental surveillance of Americans.

"My worry is that they also collect information on millions of Americans, and I don’t want that database to be searched without a warrant," Paul said.

"I will filibuster and do whatever to stop that," he added.

Section 702 permits the intelligence community to oversee foreign communications and will expire on Jan. 19. But those who oppose the program claim it permits warrantless collection of private information from U.S. citizens.