emfizz.com January 19, 2018

House Votes to Renew FISA, Bill Moves to Senate

12 January 2018, 12:23 | Terri Saunders

House weighs Amash measure on warrantless surveillance

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

Although controversial, officials from Democratic and Republican administrations have argued the eavesdropping tool is vital to counterterrorism and counterespionage efforts and has saved lives - an argument echoed by Trump's own White House.

The programme allows U.S. intelligence agencies to peruse the data of Americans if they communicate with a foreign surveillance target living overseas.

According to CNN, phones at the White House "began ringing nearly immediately" after Trump's tweet, and his advisors quickly began to draft a follow-up tweet to clarify the administration's position.

Section 702 is due to expire next week, though intelligence officials say it could continue until April. "Men aren't angels. We need to make sure somebody is watching and there are checks and balances".

The government has said it's impossible to determine how many Americans' communications are snared - though it said in 2016 the NSA and Central Intelligence Agency had more than 106,000 targets for its 702 collection, and searched almost 5,300 US person identifiers in the data.

The confusion was a fresh reminder of how Trump's impulses can upend the daily workings of the federal government.

The House voted Thursday to renew a controversial surveillance program that targets foreign terrorists but also sweeps up emails, texts and other electronic communication from an unknown number of Americans.

The Republican majority proceeded with the vote after Democrats had called for a delay in light of Trump's criticism. Rand Paul said Thursday, shortly before appearing to call for a filibuster through Twitter on the upcoming Senate vote.

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The bill, backed by the Trump administration and all the US intelligence agencies, would preserve the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence agencies' ability to search a surveillance database for information on Americans with minimal warrant requirements.

The House approved the legislation 256-164 with support from Democrats and Republican leadership to extend the program for six years. In addition, if federal authorities are already investigating a United States person, they may cross-check that person's information against the 702 database.

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 USA government's spy powers by expanding its dragnet data collection.

Instead, the greater threat to the fate of Section 702 came from the president, in a pair of contradictory and seemingly misinformed tweets posted after watching a segment about the bill on Fox News Channel. Because of the intelligence collected under this program, a foreign terrorist on foreign soil, the number two man at ISIS, who was in line to become the next leader.

Fewer than two hours later, Trump backtracked, tweeting, "With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land".

"Mr. President, this is not the way to go", he said at 6:47 a.m. ET.

CNN reported that a FISA warrant was used to surveil former Trump presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort in 2016.

Trump's administration has been consistent in pushing for the FISA program to be reauthorized, with FBI Director Christopher Wray calling it a valuable tool to fight terrorism. The American Civil Liberties Union, among others, has expressed great concern about some of what it sees as loopholes in the law. Section 702 of the FISA law was passed in 2008 after the Bush administration was shown to have allowed the then-illegal surveillance of telephone and online communications of U.S. citizens and residents in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

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