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No Warrantless Surveillance 'Nonsense' in FISA Reauthorization Bill, Bipartisan Lawmakers Vow

12 January 2018

An attempt to amend the bill to curtail the surveillance program failed 183-233.

Trump later tweeted what seemed to be a clarification of his position in favor of renewing the law, saying that "today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land".

"We have a real opportunity to get this passed in the House tomorrow", said Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican who's leading the coalition of liberals and conservatives.

The FISA Act renewal efforts have the support of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who has raised concerns for months about FISA Act abuse and alleged impropriety related to the "unmasking" of Trump campaign officials by Obama administration and intelligence officials. Though the White House on Wednesday strongly urged lawmakers to defeat the reform amendment, Trump appeared to take a different position in a tweet Thursday morning.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top-ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Trump's tweets were "inaccurate, conflicting and confusing".

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House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered the closing argument against the amendment, repeating a common talking point from opponents saying that not allowing law enforcement to dig through the data without a warrant would be risky.

"He's aware of it", said Ryan.

Earlier in the week, Trump had himself signed an order to review the way that Americans caught up by surveillance can be identified - or "unmasked" in the jargon.

But civil liberties advocates on the right and left say they fear Americans are getting snared in the collection and they have demanded new protections before they agree to renew the law, which will expire January 19 unless Congress acts. That's not what we're doing today.

"We do not think that there was a conflict at all", White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

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"Thoughtful leaders on both sides of the aisle know FISA section 702 is a vital and carefully overseen tool to protect this country". It would require the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain a court order before reviewing the content of queries for Americans' information in the database - though an order would not be required to search the database in the first place - and allow such an order only when investigators want to use the information in a criminal case.

The act's passage follows a year-long debate about the proper scope of United States electronic wiretapping after the 2013 leaks of surveillance secrets by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

The reauthorization is potentially a politically fraught issue on Capitol Hill, and the House is expected to vote on the bill later Thursday. The bill passed 256-164 and is now headed to the Senate. As it stands, the House bill now includes a much more limited requirement that law enforcement obtain a warrant essentially late in their investigation.

It's not the first time this week that Trump's coherence on policy has come under question. "I understand its importance to the intelligence agencies", he said.

Trump also appeared to describe the extent of the border wall differently at various points in the meeting.

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"It is not the voice we need to be listening to when it comes to national security", Mr. Gowdy told Fox News, suggesting major national security problems loomed without the program. Fox aired a segment on Thursday morning where controversial contributor Andrew Napolitano criticized FISA as the beginning of Trump's "woes" with respect to the investigations into Russian Federation interference into the 2016 election that have embroiled his administration and family members.

No Warrantless Surveillance 'Nonsense' in FISA Reauthorization Bill, Bipartisan Lawmakers Vow