Paul says he plans to filibuster spy legislation

On Thursday, the House voted to approve legislation that would extend the National Security Administration’s warrantless spying authority. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he intends to block any such legislation in the Senate.

House lawmakers approved a measure reauthorizing the NSA’s broad surveillance authority despite last-minute confusion after President Trump’s contradictory tweets for and against the program.

The measure extends the government’s authority to collect communications from foreigners, without warrants, including those communicating with U.S. citizens, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s Section 702.

A competing measure to enhance greater protections for Americans’ privacy by requiring warrants was rejected earlier.

Lawmakers shot down an amendment proposed by Rep. Justin Amash(R-Mich.) to place new limits on when the government is able to spy on Americans.

Paul, along with Sens.  Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Steve Daines (R-Mont), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are planning to push back against the renewal in the Senate unless the bill includes more privacy protections.

“The House-passed bill does absolutely nothing to defend the vast majority of law-abiding Americans from warrantless searches, and in many ways it expands the federal government’s ability to spy on Americans,” Wyden said in a statement, while calling on the Senate to “allow real debate and amendments, and not push this legislation through in the dark.”

Paul, who blocked one of President Trump’s Justice Department nominees last month over surveillance concerns, took to Twitter Thursday to announce his disgust with the House legislation.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) was born from Watergate. It was designed to place the government’s targeted surveillance of any “U.S. person” suspected of involvement with international terror organizations under Congressional and judicial oversight.

Under FISA, there were limits on how government could deploy surveillance against suspects inside the United States. Warrantless surveillance of a suspected terrorist in the U.S. who’s not an American citizen could go on for a year before the Department of Justice (DOJ) and related watchdog agencies like the National Security Administration (NSA) and FBI were forced to obtain judicial authorization. If the suspect was an American citizen, the DOJ had to get a court order within three days after the government began spying on him.

In 1978, the court that began giving out those permission slips was consolidated into a single, purpose-made entity: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Ever since, in order for the DOJ to obtain a FISA warrant, it has to submit a request to a FISC judge. Except when a third party files an amicus curiae brief objecting to, or supporting, the DOJ’s request, the Federal government is the only party before the judge. There are 11 FISC judges, but only one presides over each individual DOJ surveillance request. The public doesn’t see what goes on in the FISC deliberations. It’s a secret court. By law, its records and opinions can be kept secret.

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