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12 January 2018, 12:40 | Justin Tyler
House weighs Amash measure on warrantless surveillance
The Housevoted decisively Thursday to reauthorize a powerful government authority to conduct foreign surveillance on us soil, overcoming opposition from privacy advocates and confusion sown by a series of contradictory and seemingly misinformed tweets from President Trump questioning his own administration's support for the program.
"This so-called "reform" bill was written by the intelligence community, for the intelligence community, which is why it fails to accomplish any meaningful reform to Section 702 or ensure our constitutional right to privacy", Rep. Jerrold Nadler, N.Y., said in a statement. The president has said that his campaign and Trump Tower was spied on by the Obama administration, calling the former president a "bad (or sick) guy!"
The bill under consideration sets more-modest restrictions, requiring the FBI to obtain a court order before reviewing the content of queries for Americans' information in the database - but only when the bureau wants to use that information in a full-fledged criminal case.
Senior Democrats in the House had urged cancellation of the vote after Trump appeared to cast doubt on the merits of the programme, but Republicans forged ahead.
The House has passed a bill to reauthorize a key foreign intelligence collection program with an important tweak.
That tweet seemed to contradict a statement from the White House just 12 hours earlier which expressed clear support for the measure, - and it seemed to support a proposed amendment to reform the program that the White House had also said it didn't want.
There is also no evidence Trump or his campaign were illegally surveilled, or "wiretapped", as he grossly claimed early a year ago, and was unable to prove.
But top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees were quick to leap on the first tweet as "irresponsible" and "untrue".
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein sought clarification from Trump on the apparent interest in a multiphase approach before Kevin McCarthy interjected to better state the Republican position.
Without congressional action, legal support for Section 702 will expire next week, although intelligence officials say it could continue through April. Opponents of the current law have offered a "USA Rights" amendment to the bill aiming to curtail government surveillance authority and jurisdiction, which has picked up bipartisan support.
UPDATE: Trump responded to pleas from House Republicans and members of his own national security team seeking clarification of this morning's tweet. "(S. 139) actually makes it easier for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to access Americans' communications collected under Section 702 when they have no suspicion of wrongdoing than if they have probable cause, flipping the Fourth Amendment upside down".
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