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House votes to reapprove law allowing warrantless surveillance of US citizens | American politics

House votes to reapprove law allowing warrantless surveillance of US citizens |  American politics

 


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

Lawmakers voted 273,147 votes 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 mandate failed, in a tied vote 212 to 212 across party lines.

Donald Trump opposed reauthorization of the bill, 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 sweeping powers to review emails, calls and text messages, has long been divisive and led to allegations from civil liberties groups that it violates the right to privacy. private life. House Republicans were divided ahead of the vote on reauthorizing Section 702, the most controversial aspect of the bill, with House Speaker Mike Johnson struggling to unify them around a revised version of the bill. the pre-existing law.

Republicans on Wednesday rejected a procedural vote that would have allowed Johnson to bring the bill to a floor vote, dealing a further blow to the speakers' ability to find compromise within his party. After the defeat, the bill was changed from a five-year extension to a two-year extension of Section 702, in an attempt to appease far-right Republicans who believe Trump will be president at the time of its expiration.

Section 702 allows government agencies such as the National Security Administration to collect data and monitor the communications of foreign citizens outside U.S. territory without the need for a warrant, with authorities touting it as a key tool for targeting the cybercrime, international drug trafficking and terrorism. plots. Since foreign data collection can also collect communications between people abroad and those in the United States, the result of Section 702 is that federal law enforcement can also monitor citizens' communications Americans.

Section 702 has previously faced opposition, but it became particularly tense last year after court documents revealed the FBI had used it inappropriately nearly 300,000 times, targeting racial justice protesters , January 6 suspects and others. This overreach has emboldened resistance to the law, particularly among far-right Republicans who view intelligence agencies like the FBI as their adversary.

Trump's all-caps message further weakened Johnson's position. Trump's online remarks appeared to reference an FBI investigation into one of his former campaign advisers, which was unrelated to Section 702. Other far-right Republicans such as Matt Gaetz also swore to derail the legislation, putting its passage in jeopardy.

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

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

California Democratic Rep. and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi also made a statement in favor 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 you how we could have been saved from 9/11 if we didn't need additional mandates,” Pelosi said.

The debate over Section 702 pitted Republicans who alleged the law was a tool for spying on American citizens against other members of the Republican Party who sided with intelligence officials and viewed it as a necessary measure to stop foreign terrorist groups. A proposed amendment required authorities to obtain a warrant before using Section 702 to view the communications of U.S. citizens, an idea that intelligence officials oppose because it limits their ability to act quickly. Another sticking point in the debate was whether to ban law enforcement from buying information about U.S. citizens from data brokerage companies, which collect and sell personal data on dozens of millions of people, including phone numbers and email addresses.

Section 702 dates back to the administration of George W. Bush, which secretly conducted warrantless wiretapping and surveillance programs following the September 11 terrorist attacks. In 2008, Congress passed Section 702 as part of the Fisa Amendment Act and placed foreign surveillance under more formal government oversight. Since then, lawmakers have renewed the law twice, including in 2018 when they rejected an amendment that would have required authorities to obtain warrants for U.S. citizens' data.

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 had allowed to foil numerous plots against the United States, and that she was partly responsible for facilitating the drone strike that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2022.

Sources

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2/ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/apr/12/fisa-surveillance-act-reauthorized

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