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Surveillance Bill Vote Scrapped After Opposition From Trump, DoJ

House Democrats on Wednesday decided to abandon a vote on the reauthorization of several government surveillance programs under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

House Democrats on Wednesday decided to abandon a vote on the reauthorization of several government surveillance programs under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

FISA, the USA PATRIOT Act, and similar legislation is amended under the USA FREEDOM Act, which was enacted in June 2015 and expired on March 15, 2020, after being silently extended for several months.

An amendment to the USA FREEDOM Act that would limit the government’s access to Americans’ Internet browsing and search history was rejected in the Senate earlier this month, falling short of a single vote.

A similar amendment proposed earlier this week by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Warren Davidson (R-OH) saw broad support in the House of Representatives, but the vote on the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act was abandoned on Wednesday, after both the Department of Justice and President Donald Trump publicly opposed the bill.

In a statement published on Wednesday morning, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd underlined that the DoJ opposes the Lofgren-Davidson amendment, saying that it would limit the DoJ’s ability to pursue terrorists and spies.

“Given the cumulative negative effect of these legislative changes on the Department’s ability to identify and track terrorists and spies, the Department must oppose the legislation now under consideration in the House. If passed, the Attorney General would recommend that the President veto the legislation,” Boyd said.

In a tweet on Tuesday, President Donald Trump urged Republicans to vote against the FISA bill, at least until light is shed into the FBI’s surveillance of his presidential campaign in 2016.

“I hope all Republican House Members vote NO on FISA until such time as our Country is able to determine how and why the greatest political, criminal, and subversive scandal in USA history took place!,” President Trump tweeted.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the president made it clear that he would veto the FISA reauthorization, should it pass the House.

Donald Trump FISA bill tweet

Since FISA reauthorization failed, the FBI and others can no longer use the now-expired authorities for data collection in newly opened investigations. The abandoned vote also impacts the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, which was suspended in early 2019.

Related: US Lawmakers Push for Internet Privacy Amendments to USA Freedom Act

Related: Internet Organizations Ask US House to Limit Access to Search, Browsing History

Related: Senate Narrowly Rejects New Limits on Internet Surveillance

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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