House makes decision on foreign intelligence surveillance program

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The House voted Thursday to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows collection of the contents of phone calls, emails and other communications of foreign targets, delivering a major victory to national security agencies who say the move is critical to preventing another Sept. 11-style attack.

President Donald Trump earlier in the day tweeted about how FISA was used to snoop on his campaign — and may have even sparked the Russia collusion investigation against him.

Hours later, Trump went back and said that he supported renewal of FISA and had taken independent action to stop abuses. His conflicting advice drew harsh criticism.

“This is irresponsible, untrue, and frankly it endangers our national security,” said Sen. Mark Warner, ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, blasting the president for his initial tweet.

In the end, a coalition of most Republicans and many Democrats came together to renew FISA, with some new restrictions on how Americans’ data can be accessed.

The vote was 256-164 in favor of the bill.

“It is absolutely vitally important that we not impair the most important intelligence gathering mechanism the United States has,” said House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican.

A bi-partisan group of opponents backed an alternative that would have imposed stricter protections for Americans whose information got caught in the data dragnet.

“This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?” the president tweeted.

An hour later, Trump went back and added more information about the vote:

“With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!” the president tweeted.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates released the new policy Thursday morning, hours after Trump’s tweets and even as the House was in the middle of its debate.

The new policy said only top intelligence community chiefs “or their designees” can approve requests for Americans’ names to be attached to their communications, and those receiving the information must be identified by name or title.

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