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House Blocks Domestic Surveillance Bill After Trump's Opposition

House Blocks Domestic Surveillance Bill After Trump's Opposition
(Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 10 April 2024 02:34 PM EDT

An overhaul of a controversial U.S. domestic surveillance program backed by Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson foundered Wednesday after critics including Donald Trump said it gave the government too much power to spy on its citizens.

By a vote of 228-193, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives prevented the bill from coming up for debate on the floor. Prospects are now uncertain, as authorization for the program is due to expire on April 19 and the Democratic-majority Senate has yet to act.

At issue are elements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, that allow law enforcement to scan vast mountains of data scooped up by U.S. intelligence without first getting approval from a judge.

Hard-line Republicans and left-leaning Democrats say those elements give the government too much power to spy on its citizens. They are pressing to require court approval for access.

A U.S. court found last year that the FBI improperly searched the FISA database 278,000 times over several years.

The law's backers have responded with surface-level reforms that would leave the underlying bill largely unchanged.

The law, passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, allows the U.S. government to spy on foreigners without getting court approval. The government is not allowed to target U.S. citizens, but their communications may be inadvertently collected during the process.

Critics say that effectively allows the government to arrest people using evidence that was gathered without court approval, violating the U.S. Constitution's protections against unreasonable searches.

Trump, who is running to win back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election, said the law was illegally used to spy on his campaign, without providing evidence. "IT WAS ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME, AND MANY OTHERS," he wrote on social media.

Trump has enormous influence among his party's lawmakers. His opposition scuttled a bipartisan immigration deal earlier this year.

Officials with the FBI and the Department of Justice say the program has been crucial in drug smuggling cases, foreign cybersecurity threats and cross-border crimes.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday that officials would be "blinding ourselves" if they had to go to a judge before using the data. "I can assure you that none of our adversaries are holding back or tying their own hands," he told the American Bar Association.

The revised bill has been pulled twice in the face of bipartisan opposition in the House, which Republicans control by a narrow 218-213 majority.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Johnson said the revised version included new protections for Americans.

"These reforms would actually kill the abuses that allowed President Trump's campaign to be spied on," he said.

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Newsfront
An overhaul of a controversial U.S. domestic surveillance program backed by Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson foundered Wednesday after critics including Donald Trump said it gave the government too much power to spy on its citizens.
fisa, surveillance, house of representatives, fail
442
2024-34-10
Wednesday, 10 April 2024 02:34 PM
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