US House of Representatives votes to reauthorize surveillance program

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was due to expire on 19 April. However, the Senate must also vote on the reauthorisation before this date.

 Light, Laser, Lighting, Person, Face, Head

The House of Representatives has approved the reauthorisation of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), allowing US intelligence agencies to conduct foreign communications surveillance without a warrant. The bill passed by a vote of 273–147, extending Section 702 beyond its April 19th expiration. The debate over amendments to the bill revealed unexpected alliances, with bipartisan efforts to impose a warrant requirement for surveillance of Americans narrowly defeated.

Speaker Mike Johnson faced challenges securing enough votes for reauthorisation, with former President Trump weighing in against FISA on social media. After earlier failures to advance the bill, a revised version shortened the extension to two years to gain support from reluctant Republicans. The amendment requiring a warrant for accessing Americans’ data did not pass, with concerns raised about privacy and national security implications.

The reauthorisation underscores ongoing debates over privacy rights and national security measures in the United States. Senator Ron Wyden strongly criticised the House bill, expressing concerns about increased government surveillance authority and the lack of oversight in accessing Americans’ communications data.

While some lawmakers argued that the bill expanded surveillance powers, supporters emphasised its role in disrupting activities like fentanyl trafficking. However, the Senate must still vote on the reauthorisation before the 19 April deadline.