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Press Release

U.S. House Votes to Authorize Warrantless Domestic Spying on Americans

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), with changes that would for the first time endorse warrantless searches of millions of Americans’ online and phone communications.

January 11, 2018

Today, the U.S. House of Repres­ent­at­ives voted to reau­thor­ize Section 702 of the Foreign Intel­li­gence Surveil­lance Act (FISA), with changes that would for the first time endorse warrant­less searches of millions of Amer­ic­ans’ online and phone commu­nic­a­tions. An amend­ment by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) that would have prohib­ited such warrant­less searches was defeated. Neither vote was along strictly partisan lines, as civil liber­ties advoc­ates on both the right and left suppor­ted the Amash amend­ment and opposed the bill that ulti­mately passed.

The bill must now be voted on by the U.S. Senate before reach­ing Pres. Trump’s desk.

“The House just voted to turn the Foreign Intel­li­gence Surveil­lance Act into a tool for domestic spying on Amer­ic­ans,” said Eliza­beth Goitein, co-director of the Bren­nan Center’s Liberty & National Secur­ity Program, who test­i­fied before Congress on the issue last year. “The govern­ment obtains this data without a warrant and in massive amounts, based on a prom­ise that it is NOT trying to access Amer­ic­ans’ commu­nic­a­tions. But 256 members of the House think FBI agents should have warrant­less access to Amer­ic­ans’ calls and e-mails, even in invest­ig­a­tions that have liter­ally noth­ing to do with national secur­ity. The Senate should reject this assault on Amer­ic­ans’ consti­tu­tional protec­tions and take up legis­la­tion, like the USA Rights Act, that will end warrant­less searches instead of endors­ing them.”

The final bill passed by a vote of 256–164, while Rep. Amash’s amend­ment was defeated 183–233. This morn­ing, Pres. Trump tweeted out concerns about the bill, although the White House has publicly backed its passage.

Read an opin­ion piece by Goitein in the San Fran­cisco Chron­icle urging House Minor­ity Leader Rep. Pelosi (D-CA) to mobil­ize her caucus against the bill. Pelosi ulti­mately backed the bill.

Visit the Bren­nan Center’s resource page on Section 702 Surveil­lance.

For more inform­a­tion or to sched­ule an inter­view, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292–8381 or naren.daniel@nyu.edu.