Controversial Spying Bill Renewed? What You Need To Know About FISA

by: The Knowledge Group

January 16, 2018


On January 11th, the House voted to renew a controversial surveillance program known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for the next six years. Under FISA, U.S. government officials are allowed to monitor the texts, emails, and other electronic communications of foreign citizens living outside the United States. While the program bars officials from directly monitoring the communications of American citizens, there are many cases where citizens may still find their communications monitored under the program, such as if they were communicating with someone who is not a United States citizen.

FISA came about as a response to 9/11 in order to provide government agents with more ability to highlight and track potential terrorists. However, Rep. Ted Poe, (R-Texas), said Thursday morning on the House floor that, “Section 702 was written to go after terrorists, but it is being used to go after Americans.”

Despite the existence of an alternate bill which would require officials to attain a search warrant before they access any electronic communications – a bill which had the support of both liberal and conservative civil liberties groups – the House chose to renew the existing FISA program by a vote of 256-164.

The bill still has to pass the Senate, where it will face heavy criticism from figures such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) who has vowed to filibuster the bill. Nevertheless, analysists expect that the bill will pass and will ultimately be signed by President Trump, in spite of the fact that his recent tweets on the bill seem to suggest that he isn’t 100% fond of it. According to the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, though, the Trump administration is in support of FISA and Trump will sign the bill to renew it should it pass the Senate.