Congress votes to give NSA 6 more years of spying on Americans without a warrant


On January 11, the House passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill which renews a controversial NSA surveillance program that allows the spy agency to intercept the communications of Americans without a warrant.

With the 256-164 vote, the House of Representatives extends NSA spying powers for the next six years.

Senate leaders say they’ll send the bill to President Trump’s desk next week to reauthorize the government’s power to conduct foreign surveillance inside U.S. borders, even after confusing tweets from Trump himself that questioned support for the program Thursday morning.

‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,’ Trump tweeted, referencing a headline from Fox News. ‘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?’

Here’s the EFF’s response, from David Ruiz.

In a related vote, the House also failed to adopt meaningful reforms on how the government sweeps up large swaths of data that predictably include Americans’ communications.

Because of these votes, broad NSA surveillance of the Internet will likely continue, and the government will still have access to Americans’ emails, chat logs, and browsing history without a warrant. Because of these votes, this surveillance will continue to operate in a dark corner, routinely violating the Fourth Amendment and other core constitutional protections.

This is a disappointment to EFF and all our supporters who, for weeks, have spoken to defend privacy. And this is a disappointment for the dozens of Congress members who have tried to rein NSA surveillance in, asking that the intelligence community merely follow the Constitution.

Today’s House vote concerned S. 139, a bill to extend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a powerful surveillance authority the NSA relies on to sweep up countless Americans’ electronic communications. EFF vehemently opposed S. 139 for its failure to enact true reform of Section 702.

As passed by the House today, the bill:

• Endorses nearly all warrantless searches of databases containing Americans’ communications collected under Section 702.

• Provides a narrow and seemingly useless warrant requirement that applies only for searches in some later-stage criminal investigations, a circumstance which the FBI itself has said almost never happens.

• Allows for the restarting of “about” collection, an invasive type of surveillance that the NSA ended last year after being criticized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for privacy violations.

• Sunsets in six years, delaying Congress’ best opportunity to debate the limits NSA surveillance.

You can read more about the bill here from EFF’s perspective.

From the Washington Post‘s coverage:

The Senate voted 69 to 26 Thursday to start debate on the bill, which would extend for six years the National Security Agency’s ability to collect from U.S. companies the emails and other communications of foreign targets located outside the United States. The vote came hours after the House voted 256 to 164 to approve the legislation and is a sign that lawmakers intend to move swiftly to pass the measure before the program’s statutory authority expires Jan. 19.

The intelligence community considers the program — known as Section 702, named for its place within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act that established it in 2008 — to be its key national security surveillance tool. But privacy advocates oppose the law, arguing that there are not enough limits to federal law enforcement agencies’ ability to scour the communications of Americans in touch with foreign targets.

Your reaction