House extends NSA surveillance law
The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to extend the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program for six years with minimal changes, rejecting a push by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to impose significant privacy limits when it sweeps up Americans’ emails and other personal communications.
The vote, 256 to 164, centered on an expiring law that permits the government, without a warrant, to collect communications from the US companies like Google and AT&T of foreigners abroad — even when those targets are talking to Americans.
Congress had enacted the law in 2008 to legalise a form of a once-secret warrantless surveillance programme created after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Hours before the vote, President Donald Trump set off last-minute turmoil as Republicans scrambled to secure enough support to extend the law without new privacy constraints. In a Twitter post Thursday morning, shortly after “Fox & Friends” aired a segment discussing the issue, Trump expressed skepticism about government surveillance — even though a White House statement issued on Wednesday night urged Congress to block significant new constraints on the NSA programme. The legislation must still pass the Senate.
But fewer senators appear to favour major change to spying laws, so the vote on Thursday in the House was the pivotal test. The Senate began considering the newly approved House Bill on Thursday afternoon; Senators Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, and Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, are expected to oppose the measure in the coming days.