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House votes to extend NSA’s warrantless surveillance capabilities


If it passes the Senate, FISA Section 702 be in effect for six more years. Today, the US House of Representatives voted to renew the law that allows the National Security Agency to surveil communications between American companies and foreigners located outside of the country without a warrant. It's Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, and the House extended its provision for six years. It still needs to go through the Senate, but according to The New York Times, there are fewer advocates of major overhaul to current spying laws in that chamber, so it will likely pass without too much difficulty. The House also rejected an amendment to the bill that would have included extra protections, including requiring investigators to obtain warrants before looking at personal communications of American citizens that get caught up in the provisions of FISA. There was also a proposal for a less dramatic overhaul of spying law that was developed by the House Judiciary Committee, but it was blocked by House Speaker Ryan. It's a victory for the Trump administration, though the president appears to not have realized what his side of the bill his party was on when he tweeted his opposition to it. A few hours later, he changed his mind and tweeted in support the bill. 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! The movement to change these spy laws, and provide stronger protections for American citizens, had bipartisan support and had been in the works for years. It seems that lawmakers have some time to regroup and try again in another six years.

Filibuster threat means Trump needs Senate Democrats to pass spying bill


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.