House votes to defund and expand a major US spying program

Just days after the end of a controversial US wiretap program, a major hurdle to its reauthorization has been removed.

After months of delays, false starts and interference from lawmakers working to preserve and expand the US intelligence community’s spying powers, the House of Representatives on Friday repealed Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for two years. Voted to increase.

Legislation expanding the program – controversial because of government abuses – passed the House by a vote of 273–147. The Senate has yet to pass its bill.

Section 702 allows the US government to wiretap communications between Americans and foreigners abroad. Billions of calls, texts and emails are intercepted by government spies with the “coerced assistance” of US communications providers.

The government may strictly target foreigners who possess “foreign intelligence information,” but it also monitors the conversations of countless Americans every year. (The government claims it is impossible to determine how many Americans have been affected by the program.) The government argues that Americans themselves are not being targeted and thus the wiretaps are legal. Yet, their calls, texts, and emails may be stored by the government for years, and later accessed by law enforcement without the judge’s permission.

The House bill dramatically expands the statutory definition for communications service providers, some FISA experts, Including Mark Zwillinger— one of the few people who advise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) — has publicly warned against it.

“Anti-reformists are not only refusing to make common-sense reforms to FISA, they are pushing for a massive expansion of warrant-less spying on Americans,” U.S. Senator Ron Wyden told WIRED. “His amendment will force your cable man to become a government spy and assist in monitoring the communications of Americans without a warrant.”

FBI’s Track record of program abuse Last fall, a rare tension erupted between progressive Democrats and pro-Trump Republicans — both equally troubled by the FBI’s targeting of activists, journalists and a sitting member of Congress. But in a major victory for the Biden administration, House members rejected an amendment earlier in the day that would have imposed new warrant requirements on federal agencies accessing 702 percent of Americans’ data.

“Many of the members who accepted this vote have a long history of voting for this specific privacy protection,” says Sean Witka, policy director of the civil-liberties-focused nonprofit Demand Progress, “including former Speaker Pelosi, Representative Liu and Representative Neguse.

The warrant amendment was passed earlier this year by the House Judiciary Committee, whose long-standing jurisdiction over FISA has been challenged by friends in the intelligence community. An analysis by the Brennan Center this week found that 80 percent of the original text of the FISA reauthorization bill was written by members of the Intelligence Committee.

“Data on three million Americans was searched in this database of information,” says Representative Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “When the FBI conducted this search, it was not even following its own rules. “That’s why we need a warrant.”

Representative Mike Turner, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, campaigned for months with top spy agency officials to defeat the warrant amendment, arguing that it would waste valuable bureau time and hinder national security investigations. Will come. The communications, Turner argued, were collected legally and already in the government’s possession; No further approval should be required for their inspection.

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