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NSA

  • The Senate voted 65-34 on extending a controversial warrantless-surveillance program.
  • President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure by the end of the week.
  • Despite fierce opposition from a bipartisan group of privacy-minded lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the US government will continue to have the authority to “incidentally” sweep up Americans’ communications.

The Senate voted Thursday to extend a controversial surveillance program for six years, ending months of debate over a law that has been the linchpin of post-9/11 US national security.

The bill essentially reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the US government to collect the communications of foreigners overseas without a warrant, even if Americans’ communications are picked up and searched by officials along the way.

The measure passed 65-34, with support from Republicans and Democrats.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the extension into law by Friday, despite reservations he expressed in a tweet last week.

Before the vote Thursday, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina called the 702 provision “the single most important intelligence tool that exists for us to keep Americans safe.”

Opponents say the program allows the government to sweep up Americans’ communications under the guise of targeting foreigners abroad. Privacy rights advocates argue that this so-called “incidental” collection doesn’t happen by chance.

“Individual decision making about whom to target is warrantless,” Sarah St. Vincent, a surveillance researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Business Insider. “There’s no oversight on a case-by-case basis. The FBI can warrantless search data, and they can do that at any stage, even if a formal investigation is not open.”

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 60-38 to invoke cloture on the bill, effectively ending debate and moving forward with a vote. A bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, Steve Daines, Patrick Leahy, Read More Here