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House Votes to Allow Government to Collect Emails without Warrants
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Summary: The House voted to renew the program known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 

On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to renew a surveillance program that collects electronic communications without a warrant. According to USA Today, the vote was 256-164.

  
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The program, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allows the government to collect Americans’ electronic communications such as emails, photos, and texts without a warrant. An alternative bill that would have required warrants failed with a vote of 182-233.

Former FBI Director James Comey said that Section 702 was a “vital” tool for American safety and urged Congress to reauthorize it.

“Thoughtful leaders on both sides of the aisle know FISA section 702 is a vital and carefully overseen tool to protect this country. This isn’t about politics. Congress must reauthorize it,” Comey said on Twitter.

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Section 702 was launched in 2008 as a response to the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Congress wanted to be able to track and stop terrorists, and the program was designed to spy on foreign citizens. However, critics said that the program does broad sweeps which end up collecting communications from innocent Americans who interact with foreign nationals, even ones not suspected of terrorism.

Section 702 will expire on January 19 if the Senate does not pass the vote. According to USA Today, the Senate is expected to vote favorably to renew the program.



On Thursday, President Donald Trump tweeted his opposition to the bill and suggested that his predecessor Barack Obama had used it to spy on him.

“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?” Trump tweeted.

The Republican president later tweeted a clarification that he was in favor of a renewal.

On Thursday, another bill written by Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was passed in the House. Nunes’ bill restricts the data collected under Section 702 that involves U.S. citizens and would temporarily stop federal agents from collecting emails or texts that mention a suspect but aren’t directly to or from a target.

Nunes said that his bill increases privacy protection without hindering investigators ability to “monitor terror suspects, analyze collected data, and keep us safe.”

Nunes’ bill was met with controversy from groups such as the ACLU and FreedomWorks that argued it allowed so many exceptions that it still violated the Fourth Amendment.

What do you think of Section 702? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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