House votes to renew surveillance law that may collect Americans’ emails without warrants
2018-01-11 16:57 UTC by USA TODAY
The House rejected a bill that would have required federal agents to get warrants before searching Americans’ data.
WASHINGTON — The House voted Thursday to renew for six years a controversial surveillance program that collects the content of Americans’ email, text messages, photos and other electronic communication without a warrant.
The vote was 256-164 to extend the program, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
An alternative bill by Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., failed by a vote of 183-233. That bill, which had strong support from both liberal and conservative civil liberties groups, would have required federal agents to get warrants before searching through Americans’ data that is collected when the U.S. government spies on foreigners abroad.
The Section 702 program was originally approved by Congress in 2008 to increase the government’s ability to track and thwart foreign terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
It was designed to spy on foreign citizens living outside the U.S. and specifically bars the targeting of American citizens or anyone residing in the U.S. But critics say the program also sweeps up the electronic data of innocent Americans who may be communicating with foreign nationals, even when those foreigners aren’t suspected of terrorist activity.
“Section 702 was written to go after terrorists, but it is being used to go after Americans,” Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, said Thursday morning on the House floor.
The program is set to expire on Jan. 19 unless Congress acts. The Senate still must vote. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has vowed to filibuster the legislation passed by the House, but the Senate is ultimately expected to approve the bill.
President Trump offered a series of confusing tweets about the bill Thursday morning, prompting Democrats to ask for a delay in the House vote. Republican leaders refused.
Trump first took the remarkable step of tweeting his apparent opposition to the surveillance law despite the
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