US House votes to renew FISA warrantless surveillance program
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US House votes to renew FISA warrantless surveillance program

January 12, 2018

The Raw Data

Unspun and unbiased. These are the facts.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment Act (FISA) for six years. The bill would allow the U.S. government to continue to collect data on “non-U.S. persons” outside the country, without a warrant. It allows intelligence agencies to obtain data in emails and phone calls from companies like Google and AT&T that collect such information. The bill passed 256-164. It will now be sent to the Senate.

The House voted against an amendment to the bill that would have required warrants in some cases for intelligence agencies to read Americans’ communications with “non-U.S. persons” who are under surveillance. The term “non-U.S. persons” includes foreigners without permanent residency in the U.S. The Trump administration opposed the amendment, which failed to pass the House by a vote of 183-233.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is a co-sponsor of a Senate version of the amendment rejected by the House. On Thursday, he tweeted, “No American should have their right to privacy taken away! #FILIBUSTER.”

Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to legalize a warrantless surveillance program that was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, according to The New York Times. The original FISA Act passed in 1978.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said section 702 of the FISA Act is a “valuable tool to fight terrorism.”

Trump’s tweets before the vote

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted at 7:33 a.m. ET on Thursday: “House votes on controversial FISA ACT today. This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”

At 9:14 a.m. ET on Thursday, Trump tweeted, “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 bill passed before noon.

Background on the ‘unmasking process’

Trump’s tweet mentioned an “unmasking process.” Under Section 702 of FISA, the identities of Americans whom foreigners are speaking with or about may be “masked” in intelligence reports. The “unmasking” refers to senior government officials asking an intelligence agency to reveal the names of Americans or U.S. entities in a piece of intelligence to better understand the information.

Trump alleged that the Obama administration had used the unmasking process to obtain information on Trump’s presidential transition team. White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce said there have “been no cases of 702 used improperly for political purposes.”

CNN reported that a FISA warrant was used to surveil former Trump presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort in 2016. The FISA program was used to “unmask” former national security adviser Michael Flynn when he was communicating with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., according to Business Insider.

Sources: Business Insider, CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, The Washington Post