Trump slams FISA, reverses course in tweets

Surveillance

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill to renew the National Security Agency's warrantless internet surveillance program, overcoming objections from privacy advocates and confusion prompted by morning tweets from President Donald Trump that initially questioned the spying tool.

In 2015, U.S. Congress voted to end a controversial surveillance program under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the U.S. National Security Agency's secret phone metadata collection on Americans.

Today in Congress, privacy reform faced a significant setback as the House voted 256 to 164 to extend a controversial piece of legislation that provides for a warrantless surveillance program that at times targets American citizens.

The biggest sticking point for privacy advocates, including the ACLU, has been a policy allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to bypass getting a warrant before accessing emails and other communications of Americans collected by the NSA under these programs.

President Donald Trump appeared to contradict the official White House position Thursday morning, criticizing the program and suggesting it played a role in the surveillance of officials on his presidential campaign.

However, he later seemed to backtrack from his initial tweet: "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. We need it! Get smart!" he wrote.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus also opposed the Nunes bill, which is supported by most House and Senate GOP leaders.

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The agency had also been conducting so-called upstream searches of electronic communications and phone calls but ended up collecting information about Americans who were neither senders nor receivers of information from foreign targets. His earlier tweet could give some wavering Republicans cover to defect and back the USA Rights amendment, while the fact that Trump is focusing on the issue could increase pressures on Democrats to vote against the White House.

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats applauded the House action, saying it was a critical step in protecting Americans and USA allies and "I have faith that my former colleagues in the Senate will follow the House's lead".

Mueller and his team have been reportedly preparing to request an interview with the president, and Trump has previously said he would be willing to meet with investigators. Then, all the data collected is saved and our government uses it to prosecute Americans for reasons totally unrelated to foreign security threats.

After the vote Thursday, Ryan, asked about his conversation with the president, said Trump's concerns regarded other parts of the law.

The House passed the bill to reauthorize FISA with an important tweak. "And people have been going, 'Yeah but FISA and unmasking.' And we've had to say, 'Look, they're separate'". For example, it could be used to find evidence that an American citizen isn't paying his or her taxes or has committed a minor drug offense, according to the ACLU and other civil liberties groups. As I said, Amash's charge included bipartisan support. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Twitter.

"Spying on foreigners without following the constitution, that is okay", Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu said during debate on the amendment.

The amendment, proposed by Michigan Republican Justin Amash, would have required that the government get a warrant before looking through a surveillance database for information on Americans. 55 Democrats voted against the amendment, where a swing of 26 votes would have meant its adoption and the protection of Americans' privacy.

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