Home Tech House Votes to Reapprove Law Allowing Warrantless Surveillance of U.S. Citizens

House Votes to Reapprove Law Allowing Warrantless Surveillance of U.S. Citizens

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House Votes to Reapprove Law Allowing Warrantless Surveillance of U.S. Citizens

House lawmakers voted Friday to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or Fisa, which includes a key measure that allows warrantless surveillance of Americans. The controversial law allows for wide-ranging monitoring of foreign communications, but has also led to the collection of messages and phone calls from American citizens.

Lawmakers voted 273 to 147 to approve the law, which the Biden administration has supported for years as an important counterterrorism tool. An amendment that would have required authorities to seek a court order failed, in a tied 212-212 vote across party lines.

Donald Trump opposed the bill’s reauthorization, posting on his Truth Social platform on Wednesday: “KILL FISA, IT WAS ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME AND MANY OTHERS. THEY SPY ON MY CAMPAIGN!!!”

The law, which gives the government broad powers to view emails, calls and text messages, has long been divisive and has led to accusations from civil liberties groups that it violates privacy rights. House Republicans were divided in the run-up to the vote on reauthorizing Section 702, the most contentious aspect of the bill, and House Speaker Mike Johnson was struggling to unify them around to a revised version of the pre-existing law.

Republicans rejected a procedural vote on Wednesday that would have allowed Johnson to bring the bill to a floor vote, in a new blow to the president’s ability to reach a compromise within his party. Following the defeat, the bill moved from a five-year extension to a two-year extension of Section 702, an effort to appease far-right Republicans who believe Trump will be president when it expires.

Section 702 allows government agencies such as the National Security Administration to collect data and monitor the communications of foreign citizens outside the United States without a warrant, and authorities promote it as a key tool in combating cybercrime, international trafficking of drugs and terrorism. plots. However, since foreign data collection can also collect communications between people abroad and in the US, the result of section 702 is that federal authorities can also monitor the communications of US citizens.

Section 702 has faced opposition before, but became especially strained last year after court documents revealed that the FBI had misused it nearly 300,000 times, targeting racial justice protesters, January 6 suspects and others. That overreach emboldened resistance to the law, especially among far-right Republicans who see intelligence services like the FBI as their opponent.

Trump’s all-caps post further weakened Johnson’s position. Trump’s online comments appeared to refer to an FBI investigation into a former campaign adviser of his, which was not related to Section 702. Other far-right Republicans, such as Matt Gaetz, also vowed to derail the legislation, jeopardizing its passage. .

Meanwhile, Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told lawmakers on Friday that not reauthorizing the bill would be a gift to China’s government spy programs, as well as for Hamas and Hezbollah.

“We will be blind when they try to recruit people for terrorist attacks in the United States,” Turner said Friday on the House floor.

California Democratic Rep. and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi also made a statement in support of passing Section 702 with its warrantless surveillance capabilities intact, urging lawmakers to vote against an amendment that would weaken its scope.

“I don’t have time right now, but if members want to know, I’ll tell them how we could have saved ourselves from 9/11 if we didn’t have to have additional court orders,” Pelosi said.

The debate over Section 702 pitted Republicans who alleged the law was a tool to spy on American citizens with other members of the GOP who sided with intelligence officials and viewed it as a necessary measure to stop terrorist groups. foreign. One proposed amendment called for requiring authorities to obtain a court order before using Section 702 to view the communications of American citizens, an idea that intelligence officials oppose because it limits their ability to act quickly. Other friction point The debate centered on whether law enforcement should be prohibited from purchasing information about American citizens from data brokering companies, which accumulate and sell personal data on tens of millions of people, including phone numbers and email addresses.

Section 702 dates back to the George W. Bush administration, which secretly ran warrantless wiretapping and surveillance programs after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2008, Congress passed Section 702 as part of the Fisa Amendments Act and placed foreign surveillance under more formal government oversight. Lawmakers have renewed the law twice since then, including in 2018, when rejected an amendment That would have required authorities to obtain warrants for the data of American citizens.

Last year, Merrick Garland, the attorney general, and Avril Haines, director of national intelligence, sent a letter to congressional leaders asking them to reauthorize Section 702. They claimed that the intelligence obtained through it resulted in the failure of numerous plots against the United States, and that he was partly responsible for facilitating the drone attack that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2022.

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