Rand Paul threatens to filibuster over FISA surveillance program

Pool  Getty Images North America

Pool Getty Images North America

The House of Representatives passed legislation reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is a key tool of the USA intelligence community, despite President Donald Trump's tweeted criticism of the government's surveillance program.

During his weekly press conference, House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked about the president's conflicting tweets on the FISA bill and his awareness of the law. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) argued that the amendment would lead to the country "flying blind" in its search for terrorism suspects.

The House reauthorized a controversial spying program on Thursday.

The official White House position, which was announced in a statement issued Wednesday night, was in favor of the bill the House passed and against the Amash-Lofgren alternative. He said Trump's "woes" began with surveillance.

Asked by Reuters at a conference in NY about Trump's tweets, Rob Joyce, the top White House cyber official, said there was no confusion within the Oval Office about the value of the surveillance program and that there have been no cases of it being used improperly for political purposes.

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A White House official said staffers had consulted with Trump after his initial tweets opposing the administration's stance.

Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the daily news briefing Thursday afternoon that the president's two tweets did not conflict, and she pushed back on reporters who raised questions about whether Trump understands FISA's Section 702.

There is no evidence they were poorly surveilled, as Trump claimed in his tweet.

"This vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land", Trump said in his second morning tweet on the matter. To ensure a smoother ride, Senate majority whip John Cornyn (R-TX) suggested that the House bill might get attached to the omnibus spending bill that will need to get approved by January 19th to avoid a shutdown, which is coincidentally the same date as the expiration of 702's current authorization.

The CIA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

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Trump's position Thursday morning seemed to be in opposition to the Trump administration's position, potentially putting the reauthorization vote in doubt.

In a rare display of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, a group of lawmakers from both parties are pushing for passage of an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reauthorization bill that would require intelligence agencies to obtain a warrant for surveillance of American citizens. The bill now moves to the Senate, where Kentucky Republican Rand Paul has said he may attempt a filibuster unless the spy authority is weakened.

The government must have a documented foreign intelligence goal for surveilling anyone using Section 702.

The House voted against an amendment to the bill that would have required warrants in some cases for intelligence agencies to read Americans' communications with "non-U.S. persons" who are under surveillance.

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