The House has approved a bill to renew the FISA spying program after a GOP uprising threatened

Washington – The House passed a bill on Friday Reauthorize a critical national security surveillance programTwo days later a conservative rebellion prevented similar legislation from landing.

The bill shortens and extends a portion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as Section 702, to two years instead of the full five-year reauthorization originally proposed. The change was made to appeal to GOP critics.

The final vote was 273 in favor and 147 against.

Suspicion of the government's spying powers has grown dramatically in recent years, particularly on the right. Republicans have clashed for months over what a legislative overhaul of the FISA surveillance program should look like, creating divisions on the House floor this week as 19 Republicans broke with their party to prevent the bill from coming to a vote.

However, some of the original opponents signaled their support for the new plan late Thursday.

“The two-year deadline is a much better landing spot because it gives us two years to see if any of this works, rather than kicking in five years,” said Rep. Chip Roy, Republican of Texas. “They say these reforms are going to work. Well, I guess we'll find out.”

The fight over FISA

The law in question would allow the U.S. government to collect without a warrant the communications of non-Americans located outside the country to gather foreign intelligence. Reauthorization is tied to a series of reforms aimed at appeasing critics who have complained about civil rights abuses against Americans.

But far-right opponents have complained the changes don't go far enough. Some of the protesters were Johnson's fiercest critics, including members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, who have railed against the speaker over the past months for crossing the aisle to carry out basic government functions.

To appease some of those critics, House Speaker Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, plans to introduce a separate proposal next week that would close a loophole that allows U.S. authorities to collect information about Americans from big tech companies without a warrant.

“I think all of that was a great comfort,” Roy said.

Although the program technically expires on April 19, the Biden administration has said it expects to retain the intelligence-gathering authority for at least another year, thanks to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion earlier this month that allows it to receive surveillance applications. . But officials say court approval should not be a substitute for congressional approval, especially since telecommunications companies may stop cooperating with the government.

First approved in 2008, the spy tool has been updated several times as U.S. officials see it as critical to disrupting terrorist attacks, cyber intrusions and foreign espionage operations. It has also developed intelligence that the US relies on for specific operations.

But the administration's efforts to win reauthorization of the program have repeatedly met with fierce and bipartisan pushback. Oregon's Sen. Ron Wyden is a longtime civil rights activist who has sided with former President Donald Trump's Republican supporters. Truth Social on Wednesday falsely claimed that Section 702 was used to spy on his presidential campaign.

“Kill FISA,” Trump wrote in all caps. “It was used illegally against me and many others. They spied on my campaign.” A former adviser to the 2016 presidential campaign was targeted for surveillance over possible ties to Russia under a different section of the law.

One particular area of ​​concern for lawmakers is the use of the FBI's vast intelligence repository to search for information about Americans and others in the United States, but the surveillance program only targets non-Americans in other countries. That goal is communication with foreigners.

Over the past year, U.S. officials have exposed a series of abuses and mistakes by FBI investigators in improperly querying intelligence repositories for information about Americans or others in the United States. Jan. 6, 2021, Riots in the US Capitol.

Those breaches led to requests for the FBI to have a warrant before conducting database queries on Americans, which FBI Director Chris Ray has warned would effectively reduce the effectiveness of the program and make it legally unnecessary because the information in the database is already legal. Collected.

“While it is imperative to ensure that this important authority of 702 does not expire, we should not diminish the effectiveness of this essential tool with a warrant requirement or some similar restriction, crippling our ability to deal with fast-moving threats,” Ray said. In a speech on Tuesday.

An amendment that would have required authorities to obtain a warrant before searching Americans' communications in the 702 database failed in a dramatic tie vote before the bill reached final passage.

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