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Excerpt: "The House voted decisively Thursday to reauthorize a powerful government authority to conduct foreign surveillance on U.S. soil, overcoming opposition from privacy advocates and confusion sown by contradictory and seemingly misinformed tweets from President Trump questioning his administration's support for the program."

Paul Ryan. (photo: Getty)
Paul Ryan. (photo: Getty)

House Passes Legislation to Renew Key NSA Surveillance Program

By Karoun Demirjian and Josh Dawsey, The Washington Post

11 January 18


he House voted decisively Thursday to reauthorize a powerful government authority to conduct foreign surveillance on U.S. soil, overcoming opposition from privacy advocates and confusion sown by contradictory and seemingly misinformed tweets from President Trump questioning his administration’s support for the program.

The 256-to-164 vote sets up the legislation for consideration in the Senate, where leaders have said they think they can pass it before the program’s statutory authorization expires on Jan. 19.

The measure would extend for six years the government’s ability to collect from U.S. companies the emails and other communications of foreign targets located outside the United States. The intelligence community considers the program, called Section 702 after the part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 that established it, its key national security surveillance tool.

But the fate of the program appeared to be in jeopardy Thursday morning, after the president tweeted his doubts about it, questioning his administration’s position after seeing a segment about it on Fox News Channel.

“ ‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,’ ” Trump wrote, citing a Fox News headline. “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?”

Trump attempted to walk back the tweet about 90 minutes later, urging lawmakers to reauthorize the program. But top Democrats seized on the confusion, calling on Republican leaders to withdraw the bill from consideration “in light of the irresponsible and inherently contradictory messages coming out of the White House today,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on the floor.

Republicans seemed undeterred by Democrats’ demands, plowing ahead with planned votes on the bill and a sole amendment to it Thursday morning. But the president’s mixed messages sent shock waves through the House GOP, which was gathered for a regular conference meeting when he sent his initial tweets.

Trump then called House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), and they spoke for half an hour. Later, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) alerted the GOP conference that the president had tweeted again, calming lawmakers’ nerves.

But top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees were quick to leap on the first tweet as “irresponsible” and “untrue.”

“FISA is something the President should have known about long before he turned on Fox this morning,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted after Trump’s post.

In his second tweet, Trump seemed to backtrack, pushing for the act to be re-upped.

“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!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

It is unclear how Trump “personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office,” because the bill’s sponsor, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), stripped the major changes to unmasking procedures from the measure before presenting it for a vote by the full House.

Senior government officials can ask spy agencies to unmask the names of Americans or U.S. organizations if they think it will help them better understand the underlying intelligence. Trump, and Nunes, accused the Obama administration of improperly revealing the identities of members of the president’s transition team. It is unclear what the dossier that alleges his campaign had ties to Russia has to do with unmasking or reauthorizing the spying program, but Trump has repeatedly denounced it in recent days.

Both Republicans and Democrats have pushed back against linking the controversy over unmasking to the FISA program the House is seeking to extend, Section 702. On Thursday, White House cyber coordinator Rob Joyce said there have “been no cases of 702 used improperly for political purposes.”

Privacy advocates in Congress objected to the measure, but were unsuccessful in their attempt to amend with legislation written by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) that would have required law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants before being able to scour the database of those records for information about Americans who may have been in touch with foreign targets. The underlying bill requires only that the government seek a court order when it wants to use information about Americans in criminal cases. The amendment failed to pass by a vote of 183 to 233.

Trump’s administration has pushed for the FISA program to be reauthorized, with FBI Director Christopher A. Wray calling it a valuable tool to fight terrorism. The White House has issued statements this week and asked lawmakers to reauthorize it, even urging members late Wednesday night to reject a proposed amendment that would weaken the bill and probably kill its chances of passage in the Senate.

Trump’s tweet came shortly after a “Fox and Friends” segment that highlighted the FISA program, calling it “controversial.” His first seemed to side more with civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, House Democrats and others, such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who have pushed for less invasive measures. your social media marketing partner


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0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-12 09:10
"reauthorize a powerful government authority to conduct foreign surveillance on U.S. soil, overcoming opposition from privacy advocates and confusion sown by contradictory and seemingly misinformed tweets from President Trump questioning his administration’ s support for the program."

The major media in the US continues the myth that the NSA only surveils all communications by foreigners. This is totally false. The NSA surveils all communications on earth, and this includes all American citizens.

The issue here is not Trump's tweets on this bill. Who cares. He will sign whatever they send to him.

The real story here is mass spying on everyone. All the data collected will be saved forever. And all of it will be datamined and analyzed by US law enforcement agencies and private contractors looking for -- god only knows what.

The United States of Surveillance goes on. Big Brother is Watching You.

"I pledge allegiance to the Oligarch of the United States of America, and to the republic which they own, one nation under surveillance, indivisible, with liberty and justice for the few."
0 # EternalTruth 2018-01-13 20:21
I believe that you are correct. I've mostly taken this as a given for so long that when you say "The real story here is mass spying on everyone," it takes me a moment to realize/remembe r that this is not a commonly accepted truth, and that it should indeed be the big story. I'm so used to reading news articles and politician's comments through my BS filter, that I forget lots of people (??how many??) probably take them at face value as truth.

When the 24/7 tRump soap-opera gets exciting, I forget that many people don't realize that the things they are arguing over (foreign surveillance), are a mere plot device to keep us entertained while they devise and execute more ways of brainwashing, surveilling, controlling and steeling from us. Is tRump a real life Truman show?
It's difficult to tell where the truth lies, and exactly what level of manipulation is going on.
What can we do? If we can, we've got to find the rare people of integrity and support them for all we are worth, in any way we can. I'm not even sure that can make a difference (who's counting the votes?), but it needs to be done anyway. The other thing we need is nonviolent direct action targeting the sources of corruption, and boycotting complicit companies.

The mass surveillance of everything, as well as vote suppression/tam pering/rigging are stories that should be headlines for as long as it takes to change it. But the msm is not about truth or democracy. It's about profit, and control.
+1 # EternalTruth 2018-01-12 14:56
This is like an Andy Borowitz article. Is this real? Am I in the twilight zone? The president* of the the US is an openly sexist racist megalomaniac who gets his info from and makes policy based on a morning tabloid show. I can't even wrap my mind around it. It's like a bad movie. Or an even worse dream. We need to wake up America!

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