The White House has come out against a proposed amendment to reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization that its backers say provides the necessary constitutional protections while giving intelligence authorities the ability to target terrorists and other overseas targets.
By midmorning, in a followup tweet, the president appeared to step back from supporting the limits that his own administration has been encouraging lawmakers to reject. In one tweet, he linked the FISA program that his White House supports to a dossier that alleges his campaign had ties to Russian Federation.
The statement precedes the US House of Representatives vote, set to take place on Thursday on a bill that will extend the existing surveillance programs for foreigners for six years with minor changes. Authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as amended in 2008, the tool is regarded by the intelligence community as vital to protecting the country.
After a few confusing tweets, U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday pushed the House to renew a critical national security program that allows spy agencies to collect intelligence on foreign targets overseas. But, he predicted, "we'll get 218 votes" in the end to secure passage of the Nunes bill. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., failed by a vote of 183-233.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday night issued a statement asking lawmakers to vote against the legislation with the changes.
"This vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land", Trump said in his second morning tweet on the matter.
Those opposed said it would prevent USA law enforcement and intelligence agencies from uncovering potential threats to national security. While the government agency cannot use the law to target the communications of any American, or any person located inside the US, without constitutional protection, it has conceded that Americans living overseas could be swept up by "incidental collection".
The biggest sticking point for privacy advocates, including the ACLU, has been a policy allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to bypass getting a warrant before accessing emails and other communications of Americans collected by the NSA under these programs.
The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to renew USA spy powers first revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. The government maintains that no domestic citizens can be targeted without a court order.
Before the vote, a tweet from Trump had contradicted the official White House position and renewed unsubstantiated allegations that the previous Democratic administration of Barack Obama improperly surveilled the Republican's 2016 presidential campaign. He said Trump's "woes" began with surveillance.
Congressional leaders say that they expect the Amash amendment to fail but that allowing a vote on it is a way to placate privacy advocates.
"The Bill of Rights requires that information be gathered under the 4th amendment with probable cause, and naming the person, naming the papers", Sen. Nunes had initially sought to include transparency requirements related to unmasking requests in the FISA Act renewal legislation but Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee objected, saying he couldn't support legislation that included such provisions.