House Reauthorizes US Spy Program After Battle

( – After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress expanded federal law enforcement’s surveillance powers. The country was stinging from the deaths of 2,977 people on American soil. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies were reckoning with their shortfalls and miscommunications. Lawmakers were tasked with ensuring they had the tools they needed to make sure another terrorist attack like that never happened again. The US Patriot Act expanded the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). 

In the last two decades, the FBI has faced allegations of FISA abuse, especially as it relates to Conservatives. After back and forth, the House has now approved the reauthorization of the spy program.

FISA Section 702 Renewed

On Friday, April 12, the House capped off a long week of Republican turmoil by reauthorizing Section 702 of the FISA Act. That particular section allows federal agencies to collect intelligence information without a warrant from foreign citizens outside the United States. It doesn’t allow the government to target Americans or non-citizens if the goal is to collect information about a US person or someone located in the US.

The House voted 273 to 147 to reauthorize the program for two years, instead of the full five years initially proposed. The deal convinced enough GOP holdouts to get the legislation through.

Section 702 is widely viewed as critical for US intelligence agencies. Experts had warned that much of the information presidents receive in their daily intelligence briefings comes from intel gathered using FISA.

Almost Failed

The passage of the reauthorization came just days after Republicans in the House killed a rule that would have allowed lawmakers to reauthorize it on April 10. Conservatives voted down the rule after former President Donald Trump demanded they kill the bill.

The former POTUS claimed it was used to spy on his campaign in 2016 during the investigation into Russian collusion. However, Trump’s assertion was not correct. Section 702 didn’t have anything to do with the probe into his campaign.

There are two types of FISA warrants. The one used during that investigation required law enforcement to obtain a warrant from a court. The FBI was accused of lying to get those warrants. The FISA warrant approved on Friday relates to warrantless intelligence gathering of foreigners outside the US.

Nonetheless, since the reauthorization was reduced to two years, it would allow Trump to kill the program if he wins the election in November.

The program expires on April 19. The Senate will now vote on whether to reauthorize it.

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