Senate sends FISA surveillance bill to Trump

By Allen Cone  |  Jan. 18, 2018 at 3:39 PM
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Jan. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a six-year extension to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, sending the surveillance bill to President Donald Trump for signature.

The Senate, by a 65-34 vote, allowed continued warrantless searches of foreigners by the National Security Agency through Section 702 of FISA after the House passed the bill 256-164 last week. On Tuesday, the Senate defeated filibuster of the measure, 60-38.

FISA's Section 702 allows the U.S. government to collect communications, including emails and phone records, of foreigners on foreign soil without a warrant. Section 702 amended FISA rules in July 2008, was renewed in December 2012 and was set to expire Friday.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said the bill "remains one the most important tools that our national security professionals use to combat terrorism and to keep Americans safe," patched together Republicans and centrist Democrats to pass the legislation.

Twenty-one of 49 Democrats supported the bill and seven Republicans opposed it. Republican John McCain of Arizona was absent.

Critics, including the super-conservative House Freedom Caucus, opposed the bill, arguing the government may monitor U.S. citizens communicating with non-U.S. citizens outside the United States.

Last week, Trump sent conflicting views on the bill on Twitter before the House vote. He first criticized the program after comments on Fox and Friends and then tweeted his support of the measure.

In March 2017, Trump claimed that then-President Barack Obama had spied on Trump Tower. His view has not been substantiated and curbs to 702 programs aren't directly related.

The final bill requires the FBI to seek a warrant to view the actual contents of communications. Officials from agencies can still check the massive database for information on Americans without a warrant.

"The world remains dangerous, we need our armed forces and intelligence community to protect us and they need us to give them the tools to do it," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

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