FISA and the Section 702 Fight — Surveillance State

The House on Thursday agreed to reauthorize a controversial spying bill after President Trump — whose administration supports it — blasted the measure on Twitter

Delaying surveillance reform could undermine the economy

Two postings Thursday on Twitter by Trump came before the House was scheduled to vote later in the day on making changes to reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The law that authorized the surveillance programs is set to expire on January 19.

Asked by Reuters at a conference in NY about Trump's tweets, Rob Joyce, the top White House cyber official, said there was no confusion within Oval Office about the value of the surveillance program and that there have been no cases of it being used improperly for political purposes.

About an hour later, Trump sent another tweet, reversing course back to support for FISA: "With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land".

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have also signaled openness to the proposed House FISA bill.

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The House voted on a bipartisan basis to renew intelligence agencies' broad authority to monitor terrorist and foreign adversary communications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA; the measure now heads to the Senate for a vote. And last month, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas, warned that allowing the program to lapse would return the United States "to a pre-9/11 mindset in terms of how we conduct our intelligence sharing".

"This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?" House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., spoke by phone with Trump, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was dispatched to the Hill.

"I recommend we withdraw consideration of the bill today to give us more time to address privacy questions that have been raised, as well as to get a clear statement from the administration about their position on the bill", Schiff said on the House floor.

Supporters of the bill were furious with the Presidential whiplash over FISA.

A White House official said staffers had consulted with Trump after his initial tweets opposing the administration's stance.

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Civil liberties groups fear that the government can use that data to go after Americans for crimes such as tax evasion or minor drug offenses that have nothing to do with terrorism.

What we've learned from this episode - one I'm sure Republican lawmakers who have spent months working to pass the reauthorization really enjoyed - is that "Fox and Friends" can get President Trump to do whatever it wants.

"This is a responsible compromise between those who would say we ought to have a clean reauthorization and those that say we shouldn't be doing queries of USA persons under any circumstances", Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, said Tuesday during a lengthy Rules Committee hearing.

Section 702 allows the NSA to eavesdrop on vast amounts of digital communications from foreigners living outside the United States through US companies such as Facebook Inc, Verizon Communications Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google. Americans' communications are inadvertently swept up in the process and privacy advocates and some lawmakers want to require the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get a warrant if it wants to query and view the content of Americans' communications that are in the database to build domestic crime cases. The FBI has acknowledged to lawmakers that it would rarely need court permission under the Nunes bill to search data collected on Americans.

House OKs Foreign Surveillance Program; Senate Vote Next
It would require the government to obtain a warrant before searching 702 data for information about Americans. The program is set to expire on January 19 unless Congress acts.

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