US House of Representatives Passes Bill Renewing FISA Surveillance Program
19:50 11.01.2018(updated 21:22 11.01.2018)
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that will renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) program. The final vote was 256 to 164.
The bill still needs to be passed by the US Senate before heading to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Both House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke against the measure, which drew opposition and support from both Republicans and Democrats.
At issue was "Section 702" of FISA, which allows warrantless spying on non-US citizen terror suspects operating outside the United States. The 702 measure is set to expire on January 19 unless extended by Congress.
During the debate, Ryan warned that the amendment, if approved, would create a firewall between intelligence on terrorist plots hatched overseas and law enforcement in the United States.
"You pass the Amash Amendment and defeat this underlying bill, we go back to those days when we are flying blind on protecting our country from terrorism," Ryan stated.
The bill will extend the existing surveillance programs for foreigners for six years with minor changes. At the same time, the House will consider an amendment that suggests banning the National Security Agency (NSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other special services from reading US nationals' messages, which may find themselves in extensive intelligence databases "incidentally" collected across the world.
The amendment was proposed by Republican Congressman Justin Amash and backed by privacy advocates from both parties, especially conservatives who fear the law was misused during the Obama administration, which picked up conversations that included officials in President Donald Trump's transition team and then identified those officials.
Mass surveillance by US authorities in the United States and other countries was revealed in classified US documents published by former NSA employee turned whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, prompting criticism from governments, as well as human right advocates and activist groups across the globe. Russia granted the whistleblower a temporary asylum after he fled the United States.