House headed for cliffhanger vote on NSA surveillance

House headed for cliffhanger vote on NSA surveillance

About 90 minutes after his initial tweet, Trump followed up with another one that seemingly reversed his opinion of the program, which is set to expire January 19.

His tweet came despite his administration expressing support for renewing the program.

On the blinking lines: Republican lawmakers and top intelligence officials perplexed that Trump had appeared to contradict more than a week of public statements from the administration in support of the reauthorization, which allows the government to conduct warrantless spying on United States soil.

Senior Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives had urged cancellation of the vote after Trump appeared to cast doubt on the merits of the program, but Republicans forged ahead.

President Donald Trump is suggesting that a key program to collect foreign intelligence could have been used to "badly surveil and abuse" his campaign.

In a follow-up tweet, Trump said that the reauthorization vote is "about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land" and that it is necessary to safeguard USA national security. "We need it! Get smart!", he posted.

The criticism was all the more remarkable, because a day earlier, the White House had publicly announced support for the bill.

Nunes said his bill strengthens privacy protections "without hindering the ability of our intelligence professionals to monitor terror suspects, analyze collected data, and keep us safe".

"This strikes the balance that we must have between honoring and protecting civil liberties and making sure we have the tools in this age of 21st century terrorism to protect our people", Ryan said. "And I think the communication from the White House made it a little more ambiguous".

Image Zoom
Image Zoom

The bill also addresses the so-called "about" collection, a practice where the NSA may search through communications, including those of American citizens, in order to collect communications that are "about" a targeted non-American individual.

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

But the White House, in opposing those reforms, said the amendment would "re-establish the walls between intelligence and law enforcement that our country knocked down following the attacks of 9/11".

In 2008, an amendment was made to FISA, which authorizes security and intelligence agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to monitor phone, email and other communications of American citizens "for up to a week" without a warrant, as long as one of the parties is outside the US.

The law also has been credited by intelligence officials with foiling terrorist plots to bomb the New York City subway system and the New York Stock Exchange. "Spying is valid to find the foreign agents among us".

"I can tell you, I've been on the intelligence committee for 17 years, the government has never said, never once said it needed 702 for typical crimes", Wyden said.

The bill passed 256-164.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of NY, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the Nunes bill is so "deeply flawed" that it jeopardizes the renewal of the anti-terrorism law altogether. It would require the government to obtain a warrant before searching 702 data for information about Americans.

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