House OKs spy program after Trump tweets spark confusion

House weighs Amash measure on warrantless surveillance

It came less than 24 hours after the U.S. president's own press secretary issued a statement detailing how the administration opposed a change to FISA and called for its reauthorization.

The debate centered on an expiring law, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, which permits the government to collect without a warrant from USA firms, like Google and AT&T, the emails and other communications of foreigners overseas - even when they are talking to Americans.

The vote was 256-164 to extend the program, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. While the legislation didn't face much resistance in the House, it's likely to face more of a challenge in the Senate, where the bill's high-profile detractors, including Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, have already pledged a bipartisan filibuster effort. They particularly aimed to require intelligence agencies to obtain warrants before searching their data stores for information about Americans, whose communications sometimes are swept up.

Congress created section 702 with the 2008 FISA Amendments Act-the same act that gave telecom companies retroactive immunity for illegally spying on Americans at the behest of the Bush administration.

President Donald Trump appeared to muddy the House debate when he tweeted early Thursday that the "House votes on the controversial FISA ACT", and mused that the surveillance law could have been used by the Obama administration to spy on the Trump campaign in 2016. "This strikes the balance that we must have between honoring and protecting the privacy rights of citizens. and making sure we have the tools we need in this age of 21st century terrorism to keep our citizens safe".

However, recently, bills in the Senate and the House have tried to resurrect and codify these powers to the NSA's benefit.

On the blinking lines: Republican lawmakers and top intelligence officials perplexed that Trump had appeared to contradict more than a week of public statements from the administration in support of the reauthorization, which allows the government to conduct warrantless spying on USA soil.

Trump attempted to walk back the tweet about 90 minutes later, urging legislators to approve the reauthorization - but top Democrats seized on the confusion to demand the withdrawal of the controversial bill.

Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill could allow the surveillance law to "improperly target minorities, government critics, and marginalized communities".

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"FISA stands for the foreign intelligence surveillance act and I would submit that if we don't put the F back in FISA it becomes ISA and Americans should know that the eyes are on them", Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Virginia-5) said.

Paul said he's spoken with Trump, and the president has indicated that he believes any reauthorization should have "significant reforms", meaning that a warrant should be required before looking at records involving Americans.

The FBI and intelligence agencies say being able to query the database is essential to keeping America safe and the Trump administration had wanted the program to be reauthorized without change.

Napolitano said that the president's "woes began with unlawful foreign surveillance and unconstitutional domestic surveillance of him" before he assumed office.

Lieu's amendment to the law would have restored privacy protections that Americans are entitled to enjoy.

The Wisconsin Republican is also the author of the Patriot Act that was passed in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and gave US intelligence agencies vast powers in an attempt to stop further attacks.

"Spying on foreigners without following the constitution, that is okay", Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu said during debate on the amendment. Mark Warner, D-Va., top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. About two-thirds of the Republicans voted against the amendment and about two-thirds of the Democrats voted for it, so it wasn't really a "party line" vote, but the Democrats could have pushed it through had they all supported it.

"The new warrant requirement in this bill, such as it is, is a fig leaf for reform and fails to address the vast majority of searches of 702 information - and we know this because the Federal Bureau of Investigation admitted as much to us", Nadler said.

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