On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives ok-ed six more years of warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) rejecting altogether bipartisan efforts to set in place new privacy safeguards.
The extension to the NSA’s spy program was passed on a 256-164 vote. The vote concerned a law about to expire that authorizes U.S. spy agencies to track communications done via services offered by U.S. companies like Verizon and Google by foreigners living abroad, even if those foreigners communicate with U.S. citizens.
The controversial spy program was passed by Congress in 2008 in a bid to create a massive surveillance program following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
- Hours before the vote, President Trump criticized the program even though the GOP was seeking last-minute support for the law without the limits.
- Trump’s criticism also came at odds with the White House’s position expressed the evening before.
- On Wednesday evening, the White House urged lawmakers to extend the law without the privacy safeguards.
Senate to Vote on the Measure Next Week
The new law is now heading to the U.S. Senate, but as few senators have historically deviated from the House’s stance on spy laws, the House vote was critical for the law’s passage.
The House vote was the U.S. Congress’ response to the heated debate over domestic surveillance in the 21st-century following former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations.
On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Senate started considering the extension to the spy program with several Senators vowing to oppose the bill. GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ensured everyone that the measure would pass next week without amendments.
Snowden’s leaks in 2013 spurred a heated debate over governments’ warrantless surveillance. Privacy advocates and conservatives have been pushing for privacy safeguards ever since. Those efforts, however, have been countered by spy agencies and their supporters in Congress under both the Obama and Trump administrations.
Privacy advocates’ only notable post-Snowden victory was the dismantling of another controversial NSA surveillance program that had collected the phone call logs of all Americans for years.
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