Business Standard

House extends NSA surveillan­ce law

- CHARLIE SAVAGE, EILEEN SULLIVAN & NICHOLAS FANDOS

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.

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