Today in Congress, privacy reform faced a significant setback as the House voted 256 to 164 to extend a controversial piece of legislation that provides for a warrantless surveillance program that at times targets American citizens. The law, part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act known as Section 702, is leveraged as a loophole that provides for the surveillance of American citizens in the course of spying operations on foreign targets. The House bill extends the legality of the surveillance program for six years, allowing the NSA and other intelligence agencies to continue their warrantless surveillance practices without impediment. The vote in the House largely split along party lines, with Democrats opposed. While the legislation didnt face much resistance in the House, its likely to face more of a challenge in the Senate, where the bills high-profile detractors, including Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, have already pledged a bipartisan filibuster effort. No American should have their right to privacy taken away! #FILIBUSTERIf this #Section702 bill comes to the Senate, I will filibuster it. The House-passed bill does absolutely nothing to defend the vast majority of law-abiding Americans from warrantless searches, and in many ways it expands the federal governments ability to spy on Americans. A concerted campaign of fear-mongering and misinformation pushed this flawed bill over the line, Wyden said in a statement following the vote. The Senate must allow real debate and amendments, and not push this legislation through in the dark. Just hours before the vote was set to take place, President Trump issued a tweet condemning the bill and contradicting the White Houses established position before backtracking on his initial criticism later in the morning. With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and todays vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!
The House just passed a bill extending NSA spying powers for six years. The House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday that would extend a controversial government spying power known as "Section 702" for another six years—without new privacy safeguards that had been sought by civil liberties groups. Debate over the legislation now shifts over to the Senate, where it faces a filibuster threat from both Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) . "If this Section 702 bill comes to the Senate, I will filibuster it," Wyden wrote in a tweet shortly after the House bill passed. Wyden opposes the legislation because he believes that it offers too few protections for Americans' privacy rights. The powers granted by Section 702 are only supposed to be used against foreigners on foreign soil. But an American's communications can get swept up in the NSA's surveillance dragnet if they communicate with people overseas. Privacy advocates have championed an amendment to impose new privacy safeguards on the use of Section 702. But it was voted down by the House on Thursday. The bill that passed the House enjoys support from Republican leaders in the Senate and is likely to get support from most Republican senators. But a few Republicans—including Paul and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)—have expressed skepticism of unfettered NSA surveillance. And Wyden and Paul's filibuster threats mean that it will take 60 votes to pass the legislation. As such, the bill will need support from as many as a dozen Democrats to pass the Senate. When the Senate last renewed Section 702 in 2012, it passed by a 73-23 vote, with 19 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and independent Bernie Sanders voting no. But a lot has changed in the last five years. Barack Obama has been replaced by Donald Trump, potentially making Democrats more wary of handing broad surveillance powers to the executive branch. There isn't much time for the Senate to act. Section 702 expires on January 19, a little more than a week away.