Congress Votes to Reauthorize NSA's Warrantless Surveillance of US Citizens

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The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, which passed the House Thursday morning, will allow the National Security Agency to keep alive a program that permits it to collect the communications of foreigners while they are outside the United States - data collection that also sweeps up the information of USA citizens who are communicating with foreigners outside the US.

The term "non-U.S. persons" includes foreigners without permanent residency in the U.S. The Trump administration opposed the amendment, which failed to pass the House by a vote of 183-233. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he intends to block any such legislation in the Senate.

Before the vote a tweet from Trump had contradicted the official White House position and renewed unsubstantiated allegations that the previous administration of Barack Obama improperly surveiled his campaign during the 2016 election.

But in his first tweet Thursday, Trump wrote: "House votes on controversial FISA ACT today".

After the excesses of the Watergate era, during which the Nixon administration used the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CIA unlawfully to spy without warrants on the president's real and imagined domestic political opponents, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

He later said "This vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land".

Hours later - reportedly after a phone call with House Majority Leader Paul Ryan - Trump retreated, saying "We need it!".

The bill's passage follows a monthlong push by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee to reauthorize Section 702 with as few reforms as possible.

The bill extends Section 702 of the FISA law -set to expire next week on January 19- for six more years, until 2024. Dick Durbin, Democrat from IL, and Cory Gardner, Republican from Colorado, tweeted a statement saying there was indeed a deal.

She noted that Speaker Ryan after Trump tweeted praised his grasp of FISA. But FISA can also issue out surveillance orders, authorized by the president, without a warrant from a FISA court, for up to one year.

Trump tweeted hours after White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders clarified the White House's opposition to increased privacy protections Wednesday night, telling reporters the amendment "would re-establish the walls between intelligence and law enforcement that our country knocked down following the attacks of 9/11 in order to increase information sharing and improve our national security".

Under the new bill, FISA Section 702 will now allow the NSA to collect electronic communications of USA citizens if they mention certain terms, and not necessarily if they communicate with non-US citizens via email or an online chat.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, negotiations continued on DACA, the law protecting thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the children, as a group of senators pushed the first bipartisan fix.

Americans cannot be the subject of 702 surveillance, but can be picked up in the surveillance of foreign targets.

North Missouri Congressman Sam Graves voted in favor of the measure, as did Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, who represents Northeast Kansas. They were not issued based on probable cause of crime but issued based on the government's wish to invade the privacy of all Americans living in the colonies to find the more rebellious among them.