The Senate voted 80-16 on Thursday to revive provisions in a Watergate-era federal surveillance law that had expired in March after Congress left Washington due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What We Know:
- The bill works new accountability measures into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, a law that allows the FBI to wiretap and monitor individuals suspected of being national security threats. The reauthorization Thursday placed new requirements on the FISA court system and permanently shut down and already deactivated National Security Agency program for obtaining Americans’ phone records in terrorism investigations without judicial approval.
- It remains unclear whether Trump will sign the reauthorization when it reaches his desk. Even the Attorney General William Barr helped negotiate the bill. The president has long lashed out against the Obama administration using FISA warrants to surveil Trump’s campaign supporters in 2016, and more recently ranted about the House backed version of the bill.
- A Bipartisan amendment to restrict federal investigators’ power to search internet history also failed Wednesday by one vote. “The list goes on and on. Just imagine thinking about everything you do on the internet and your devices. That is open game,” Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., said.
- The Senate approved another bipartisan amendment Wednesday with a 77-19 vote that opened the door for the FISA court to call for an outside review of cases seeking warrants on U.S. citizens.
- While a team of Republicans are calling on the president to veto the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said back in February that FISA provides “maximum protection” for the American people.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., said after the bill passed the Senate that he hopes the House will quickly send it to the president’s desk.