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11 Jan, 2018 17:06

House votes to reauthorize controversial FISA surveillance legislation

House votes to reauthorize controversial FISA surveillance legislation

The US House of Representatives has voted in favor of renewing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), allowing for electronic surveillance of non-Americans amid conflicting messages from the White House.

FISA Section 702 allows the US government to pull in communications from foreign nationals, but does not permit surveillance of US citizens, even if they are suspected of criminality or terrorism. It has been regarded as a key feature for NSA surveillance programs and widely criticized by privacy advocates.

The House voted 256-164 in favor of renewing the act for six years. It will now go before the US Senate.

Ahead of the vote, US President Donald Trump hit out at the key intelligence provision.

It came less than 24 hours after the US president’s own press secretary issued a statement detailing how the administration opposed a change to FISA and called for its reauthorization. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers demanding changes to Section 702 that  would limit more strictly the way intelligence officials can collect communications that involve Americans, but their amendment failed. 

“The Administration strongly opposes the ‘USA Rights’ amendment to the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, which the House will consider tomorrow,” the statement  from the White House read.

“This amendment would re-establish the walls between intelligence and law enforcement that our country knocked down following the attacks of 9/11 in order to increase information sharing and improve national security. The Administration urges the House to reject this amendment and preserve the useful role FISA’s Section 702 authority plays in protecting American lives.”

Trump later updated his stance through a tweet declaring that the country needs FISA.

Wednesday's vote to renew the surveillance law brought a number of reactions from members of Congress, including Senator Rand Paul's suggestion that he will filibuster the act in the Senate.