A controversial U.S. legal framework concerning domestic surveillance is poised to live on for another six years, but opponents say they plan to continue the fight.
In a widely expected move, President Donald Trump signed the bill one day after the Senate approved it in a 65-34 vote.
At issue is Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency to conduct domestic surveillance under certain conditions without a warrant.
Under the rules of Section 702 of the FISA law, the NSA can conduct warrantless spying of foreigners located abroad, including their communications with Americans.
Section 702 was disclosed in 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and since then has come under harsh fire from civil rights and privacy advocates, who deem it unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
65 Senators just voted to expand an unconstitutional law permitting Trump to spy on communications with one leg in the US–without a warrant. For the next six years, any unencrypted internet request that even touches a US border will be "ingested" (intercepted) and parsed by NSA. https://t.co/4zkFnamcIe
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 18, 2018
Proponents of Section 702, which fall across party lines, argue it is necessary for the United States’ ongoing anti-terror efforts and has been a key factor in thwarting would-be attacks such as the 2009 conspiracy to bomb New York’s subway system. They also contend that revisions to the bill provide important protections for U.S. citizens and that it is subject to wide governmental oversight.
Opponents such as the American Civil Liberties Union refused to concede defeat following the vote.
“[T]here is a glimmer of light,” wrote ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani wrote in a blog post. “With only two more votes, reformers could have halted this bill from advancing and forced a floor debate over badly needed improvements. And an effort to pass the most comprehensive Section 702 reform bill introduced in Congress garnered the support of over 180 members in the House. With actual debate, real reform provisions likely would have passed.”
Meanwhile, the political implications of FISA are set to get murkier. Following the reauthorization vote, a number of Republican senators called for a classified memo about alleged FISA abuses related to Trump’s presidential campaign to be released, with one calling its contents “worse than Watergate,” the scandal that brought down former president Richard Nixon.
Trump addressed the matter in his tweet announcing he’d signed the bill.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 19, 2018