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 U.S. citizens who are communicating with foreigners outside the US.
Just after FISA was voted to be reauthorized and sent to the upper chamber, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), known for his staunch libertarian stances on surveillance issues, threatened to filibuster the bill.
Americans' communications are inadvertently swept up in the process and privacy advocates and some lawyers want to require the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get a warrant if it wants to view information on Americans that is in the database to build domestic crime cases.
The Trump administration backed the extension of a surveillance program created to spy on foreign citizens outside the US, but President Trump himself didn't sound so insane about it - suggesting in a tweet Thursday that the law allowed illegal surveillance of his presidential campaign.
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In one tweet, the president appeared critical of the law, saying it was used "to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign".
Efforts by Democrats and some conservative and libertarian Republicans to ensure that the agencies be required to get specific warrants for exploiting U.S. citizens' data acquired through so-called "incidental collection" failed to gain support.
"The president fully supports the 702 and is happy to see that it passed the House today", she said. Then Trump weighed in with a pair of tweets that upended things even more.
In effect, the "foreign" surveillance program - after all, FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - became a domestic spying program.
BOB GOODLATTE: This bill must be passed.
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U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a joint news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2018.
Trump alleged that the Obama administration had used the unmasking process to obtain information on Trump's presidential transition team.
Instead, the greater threat to the fate of Section 702 came from the president himself, in a series of contradictory and seemingly misinformed tweets he fired off after watching a segment about the bill on the Fox News Channel.
"National security does not trump our inalienable rights as a people, especially when the government want to "collect it all to know it all" and bypass the rule of law for secret executive rules to keep us safe from ourselves using legislative acts to make it all legal", he wrote. Though his own White House supported Section 702 - putting out a statement Wednesday night in support of its renewal -- Trump spoke Thursday morning with two key Republican lawmakers who both opposed the bill, officials said. Senate leaders should refuse to buckle under pressure from the Trump administration and intelligence committees, and instead vote to reform these government powers, which could too easily be deployed to spy on immigrant communities, minorities, government critics - and everyone else.
And at the White House news briefing on Thursday, Sanders disputed the idea that there was a conflict between two Trump's morning tweets on the wiretap law. The program, approved by Congress in 2008 to boost the government's ability to track foreign terrorists following 9/11, has been criticized due to the fact that collection practices also happen to capture electronic data from innocent Americans that aren't suspected of nefarious activity.
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Americans cannot be the subject of 702 surveillance, but can be picked up in the surveillance of foreign targets.