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Congress Extends Mass Surveillance Program

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On Thursday, the US House of Representatives passed a funding bill for next year’s defense expenditures, which controversially incorporates a short-term extension of certain surveillance authority.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) received overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, passing with a vote of 310 to 118. This count far exceeded the two-thirds majority needed for approval. Following its passage, the bill is now headed to the White House, where it awaits President Joe Biden’s signature to become law.

The temporary extension in question belongs to the surveillance capabilities under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was slated to expire at year’s end and have now been renewed through April 2024.

Utah GOP Senator Mike Lee led a robust effort to axe this extension, despite facing defeat.

Notably, a group of thirty-five senators, featuring Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, rallied behind him. However, the movement fell short of the forty-one votes needed to successfully exclude the provision.

A warrantless surveillance mechanism provided for by Section 702 targets non-Americans overseas, a point of sensitive debate because the provision has, despite failed promises from the likes of the FBI to stop, caused surveillance of US citizens.

Two improvement proposals for these mandates were put forth by Republican members but were subsequently withdrawn by House Speaker Mike Johnson amid significant intra-GOP conflicts over the issue.

Kentucky GOP Rep. Thomas Massie expressed his dissatisfaction with the inclusion of the FISA extension in bill.

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