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US House Passes Bill Renewing Warrantless Surveillance Under FISA Section 702 Amid Privacy Concerns

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Ignoring rising privacy concerns, the US House of Representatives gave the green light on Friday to a bill renewing the warrantless surveillance program under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Section 702, for the next two years. However, the vote witnessed the piecing together of conservative resistance that had stalled a prior chance at its approval. A shorter renewal period, as opposed to an initially proposed five-year term, was agreed upon in an attempt to win over Republican dissenters, culminating in a 273-147 vote in favor of the bill.

Increasing distrust concerning governmental surveillance powers has been apparent of late, especially amongst some conservatives who want to see the Fourth Amendment protected. The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

Disagreements over the potential framework for revamping the FISA spy program have resulted in divisions within the Republican party, evidenced by 19 members breaking away to block the legislation this week. However, an indication of support from previous objectors was given late Thursday.

The legislation under review allows the government to gather foreign intelligence by monitoring the communications of non-US residents overseas without the necessity of a warrant. However, it has, despite assurances that it wouldn’t happen again, been used to surveil US citizens.

The renewal accompanies reforms designed to appease those who were concerned about potential breaches of Americans’ civil liberties.

In an attempt to alleviate concerns, House Speaker Mike Johnson intends to introduce a separate proposal next week, aimed at addressing the loophole permitting the unwarranted collection of American citizens’ data from major tech companies.

Even though the program is set to expire on April 19, the Biden administration anticipates its foreign intelligence-gathering abilities to remain effective for another year, due to a recent decision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

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