Controversial US Spy Program Reauthorized By The House

The House of Representatives has reauthorized Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) after a tumultuous week of Republican infighting. The program, which allows federal agencies to collect intelligence information without a warrant from foreign citizens outside the United States, was renewed for two years instead of the initially proposed five-year extension.

The 273-147 vote on Friday, April 12, came just days after House Republicans killed a rule that would have allowed lawmakers to reauthorize the program on April 10. The move was prompted by former President Donald Trump’s demand to reject the bill, claiming it was used to spy on his 2016 campaign during the Russian collusion investigation. However, Trump’s assertion was incorrect, as Section 702 was not related to the probe into his campaign.

The passage of the reauthorization hinged on a compromise that reduced the extension period to two years, convincing enough GOP holdouts to support the legislation. Experts have emphasized the critical nature of Section 702 for US intelligence agencies, warning that a significant portion of the information presented in the president’s daily intelligence briefings is derived from data gathered under this program.

The reauthorization battle highlighted the ongoing concerns over the government’s surveillance powers, which were expanded under the US Patriot Act following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In the two decades since, the FBI has faced allegations of FISA abuse, particularly concerning surveillance of conservatives.

Despite the controversy, the House managed to avoid what some experts called a potential intelligence catastrophe by renewing the program. However, the shorter two-year extension leaves the door open for Trump to potentially kill the program if he wins the presidential election in November.

With Section 702 set to expire on April 19, the Senate will now vote on whether to reauthorize the program. The outcome of this vote will have significant implications for the US intelligence community and the ongoing debate over the balance between national security and privacy rights.

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