House renews government spy tool

 April 13, 2024

The U.S. House of Representatives just renewed Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). 

Fox News reports that the House, under the leadership of Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) renewed the act on Friday by a vote of 273 to 147.

The "yes" votes included 126 Republicans and 147 Democrats, meaning that a large number of House Republicans and House Democrats voted against the renewal of the act.

This suggests that the act is controversial, which is indeed the case.

Section 702

For those unfamiliar with Section 702, it is a government surveillance tool that is supposed to be used by the U.S. government to target foreign adversaries. If this is all that Section 702 is used for, then its renewal would not be that controversial.

But, Section 702, particularly in recent years, has also been used by the government against U.S. citizens, including - most notably - former President Donald Trump. U.S. intelligence agencies infamously used Section 702 to spy on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. This was all part of the Trump-Russian Collusion Hoax.

So, it will come as no surprise that Trump, and many of his allies, wanted to get rid of FISA. But, it passed anyway.

Afterward, Trump held a press conference with Johnson in which he said, "I'm not a big fan of FISA."

"But," he added, "I told everybody I said do what you want. They put a lot of checks and balances on and I guess it's down to two years now so that it would come due in the early part of my administration. I know [FISA] probably better than anybody. You know they spied on my campaign. You do know that right? And they did lots of other bad things."

More bad news, and some good

In addition to renewing Section 702, the House, on Friday, voted against an amendment that would have required the government to obtain a warrant before using the act to surveil the communications of Americans.

On the Republican side, 86 House members voted against the amendment.

On the bright side, the House agreed to have the next renewal of Section 702 occur in two years rather than five. This means that Trump might get the opportunity to change the law if he wins the upcoming presidential election.

"We just bought President Trump an at-bat," U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) explained.

He added, "The previous version of this bill would have kicked reauthorization beyond the Trump presidency. Now President Trump gets an at-bat to fix the system that victimized him more than any other American."

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