Today in Congress, privacy reform faced a significant setback as the House voted 256 to 164 to extend a controversial piece of legislation that provides for a warrantless surveillance program that at times targets American citizens.
The law, part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act known as Section 702, is leveraged as a loophole that provides for the surveillance of American citizens in the course of spying operations on foreign targets. The House bill extends the legality of the surveillance program for six years, allowing the NSA and other intelligence agencies to continue their warrantless surveillance practices without impediment.
The vote in the House largely split along party lines, with Democrats opposed. While the legislation didn’t face much resistance in the House, it’s likely to face more of a challenge in the Senate, where the bill’s high-profile detractors, including Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, have already pledged a bipartisan filibuster effort.
“The House-passed bill does absolutely nothing to defend the vast majority of law-abiding Americans from warrantless searches, and in many ways it expands the federal government’s ability to spy on Americans. A concerted campaign of fear-mongering and misinformation pushed this flawed bill over the line,” Wyden said in a statement following the vote. “The Senate must allow real debate and amendments, and not push this legislation through in the dark.”
Just hours before the vote was set to take place, President Trump issued a tweet condemning the bill and contradicting the White House’s established position before backtracking on his initial criticism later in the morning.