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House Reauthorizes Sweeping Surveillance Law, Rejecting Privacy Protections

HeadlineJan 12, 2018

On Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday to continue granting President Trump’s administration sweeping powers to conduct foreign surveillance on U.S. soil.

Rep. Buddy Carter: “On this vote, the yeas are 256, the nays are 164. The bill is passed. Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table.”

Sixty-five Democrats joined 191 Republicans in favor of the bill, which renews Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—known as FISA. Among the bill’s supporters were senior Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Critics note the law allows the National Security Agency to collect personal communications of Americans without their knowledge or consent—as long as at least one party in the conversations is a foreign national. The dragnet means millions of U.S. citizens are affected. This is California Democratic Representative Ted Lieu.

Rep. Ted Lieu: “Spying on foreigners without following the Constitution, that is OK. Spying on Americans without following the Constitution, that is not OK. The Fourth Amendment does not have an asterisk that says our intelligence agencies don’t have to follow it.”

During Thursday’s debate, lawmakers rejected a privacy amendment that would have required officials to obtain warrants before accessing much of the NSA’s collected data. Meanwhile, President Trump sowed confusion ahead of the vote, tweeting comments critical of FISA and saying it was used to “so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others.” Trump was referring to a discredited accusation Trump made last March that President Obama tapped his phones. Later on Thursday, Trump reversed course and tweeted his support of FISA reauthorization after he received calls from many Republicans.

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