House Votes to Renew Controversial NSA Surveillance Law

Hannah Rogers
January 16, 2018

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives ok-ed six more years of warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) rejecting altogether bipartisan efforts to set in place new privacy safeguards.

The Senate voted 69 to 26 Thursday afternoon to start debating the bill, which would extend for six years the government's ability to collect from USA companies the emails and other communications of foreign targets located outside the United States. "Unlike #S139, it limits the mass collection and broad use of Americans' data, and requires a warrant to search for it-as the #4thAmendment requires", Amash tweeted on Monday.

Privacy advocates from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) point out that the bill voted today also enhances the U.S. government's spy powers by expanding its dragnet data collection.

"The House vote to reauthorize warrantless surveillance poses an acute threat to free expression across the globe, but it is doubly concerning given President Trump's apparent willingness to target and silence his critics, especially those in the press". The White House's statement - prior to Trump's tweets - strongly opposed the amendment. Later Thursday morning, he posted a follow-up tweet clarifying that he has sought changes to the law and voicing support for the surveillance program.

But the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act's authorities also sweep up the communications of Americans, prompting concerns from privacy advocates ahead of the act's looming January 19 expiration.

Trump later tweeted what seemed to be a clarification of his position in favor of renewing the law, saying that "today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land".

Hamas official injured in Lebanon bomb blast
Hamdan was reportedly conscious following the attack, and was rapidly transferred to a nearby hospital, the source said. Lebanese policemen are seen next to a damaged vehicle in Sidon, southern Lebanon on January 14, 2018.

The White House opposes a requirement that would require the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get a warrant before even querying lawfully collected foreign intelligence for domestic cases, although not in emergencies or cases involving national security.

That final exclamatory phrase-"Get Smart!"-is an incredible bit of language, in that it serves simultaneously as an admonition and a self-own". 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. Originally enacted in 1978, the act outlines the lawful procedure for collecting foreign intelligence.

Supporters said it helps in the fight against terrorism. But top Democrats seized on the confusion, calling on Republican leaders to withdraw the bill from consideration "in light of the irresponsible and inherently contradictory messages coming out of the White House today", Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on the floor.

To back him and other members of Congress that plan to reject the S. 139 bill and support strong surveillance reforms, the EFF is encouraging everyone again to call their senators before the Tuesday vote and tell them to vote against S. 139.

Trump then spoke by telephone with House Speaker Paul Ryan, according to a Republican familiar with the call but not allowed to publicly discuss private conversations.

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