World Media

Vote to Reauthorize Warrantless Surveillance a Blow to Free Expression

Vote to Reauthorize Warrantless Surveillance a Blow to Free Expression

The Trump administration backed the extension of a surveillance program created to spy on foreign citizens outside the US, but President Trump himself didn't sound so insane about it - suggesting in a tweet Thursday that the law allowed illegal surveillance of his presidential campaign.

Legislation to renew the program that allows spy agencies to conduct surveillance on foreign targets overseas passed the House 256-164 and now heads to the Senate.

After the House passed a bill to extend NSA mass surveillance of both foreigners and Americans through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) section 702, the Senate remains the last line of defense, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday night issued a statement asking lawmakers to vote against the legislation with the changes.

He first implied his displeasure with the bill by saying FISA might have been used to "surveil and abuse" his election campaign team. To ensure a smoother ride, Senate majority whip John Cornyn (R-TX) suggested that the House bill might get attached to the omnibus spending bill that will need to get approved by January 19th to avoid a shutdown, which is coincidentally the same date as the expiration of 702's current authorization.

Trump, though, has focused intently on the dossier in recent days, especially after a transcript was released of the congressional interview with the co-founder of the firm behind the document. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also joined in by telephone.

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The House rejected the so called "USA Rights" amendment, which, among other things, prohibits intelligence services from using information collected incidentally on Americans absent a warrant.

The measure has been debated in Congress for months. Paul feels Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's comments defending the FISA surveillance program as a tool on the war on terror is disingenuous.

"The president fully supports the 702 and is happy to see that it passed the House today", she said. "I will keep doing everything in my power, including filibuster, to oppose this legislation", he said in a statement. "This bill also provides new, rigorous measures to protect Americans' privacy and to ensure the program is used properly to target foreign terrorists, weapons proliferators, and other threats to Americans' safety and security".

The reason that critics of the law are so upset is that the program essentially gives law enforcement agencies a "backdoor" to search Americans' data without having to get a warrant.

But two hours later, Trump wrote a clarification, asserting that he had directed changes to the reauthorization of the surveillance permissions. Though FISA is supposed to be used for snooping on foreign targets, it has been brought to bear against Americans and used for domestic crime cases, secretly and without warrants. That's the second tweet the president sent from his Twitter account, the individual said.


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