House Approves More FISA Spying… Can The Senate Stop Them?

Seema Verma administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services speaks during a news conference in Newark N.J. The Trump administration says it’s offering a path for states that want to seek work

But Americans' communications - even those in the US - can be snared if they are part of conversations that the targets are having. The president, after issuing some confusing and contradictory tweets about the law, supports the House action, according to the White House.

Lawmakers had begun the day readying for two votes related to the program that intelligence officials call the "holy grail" because it provides insight into the thinking and actions of US adversaries.

"The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was originally meant to collect the communications of foreign targets, which is without controversy". Congress had enacted the law in 2008 to legalize a form of a once-secret warrantless surveillance program created after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Under Section 702, monitoring Russians overseas, it may have "swept up", as spies say, some Americans in Trump world.

The intelligence community considers the program, called Section 702 after the part of the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FISA) that established it, to be its key national security surveillance tool.

So what's wrong with that? The problem, according to privacy advocates and civil liberties groups, is that the emails, photos, texts and other electronic communications of US citizens and legal USA residents are also collected while our government is spying on foreigners. As it stands, the House bill now includes a much more limited requirement that law enforcement obtain a warrant essentially late in their investigation. It is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. But FISA can also issue out surveillance orders, authorized by the president, without a warrant from a FISA court, for up to one year.

Opponents, however, claim it allows intelligence agencies to collect and scour massive amounts of data from U.S. citizens. However, once the government has chosen a foreign target, it may intercept communications the target has with Americans.

Privacy advocates in Congress objected to the measure, but failed in their attempt to amend with legislation written by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), that would have required law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants before being able to scour the database of those records for information about Americans who may have been in touch with foreign targets. But she added, "The president doesn't believe Americans' rights or liberties should be abused, but he certainly believes Americans should be protected".

What do you think of Section 702?

What did Congress do Thursday?

As of this writing, the six year proposal to reauthorization FISA's surveillance program has passed the House with a 256-164 vote.

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The revised law would restrict the use of data collected under Section 702 in some criminal prosecutions of US citizens.

In previous iterations of the program they could even be snared in "abouts" collection - which is when the government scoops up communications that mention a target, even if he or she isn't the sender or receiver.

Amash has introduced a substitute amendment in the House that would replace the text with the contents of the USA RIGHTS Act. It would have required the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get a warrant to continue even querying the database when Americans are involved. Proponents of the bill say it is essential in safeguarding America against terrorist attacks.

The president's chief of staff, John Kelly, scrambled to Capitol Hill, while panicked aides alerted Trump to the firestorm his tweets had caused.

In his second tweet Trump seemed to backtrack, pushing for the act to be re-upped.

Before that he posted: "Disproven and paid for by Democrats 'Dossier used to spy on Trump Campaign". After an impassioned fight on the House floor, however, Congress rejected the amendment, then voted to reauthorize broad swaths of the existing FISA program.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a news conference on Thursday, where he denied any contradiction in White House policy based on President Donald Trump's tweets on FISA surveillance.

"Today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land", Trump tweeted. Trump later sent another tweet telling lawmakers to "get smart" and vote for the FISA bill. On Wednesday evening, the White House put out a statement expressing the administration's opposition to the bipartisan effort. According to USA Today, the Senate is expected to vote favorably to renew the program.

Most lawmakers expect it to become law, although it still would require Senate approval and Trump's signature.

Ryan said in another instance, the surveillance allowed US officials to thwart a 2009 attempt to blow up New York's subway system.

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