National Security

Trump signs renewal of surveillance powers amid uproar over memo

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President Trump has signed a six-year renewal of a powerful government surveillance tool, he tweeted Friday, amid an uproar on Capitol Hill over what Republicans allege is serious abuse of the underlying law.

“Just signed 702 Bill to reauthorize foreign intelligence collection,” Trump tweeted. “This is NOT the same FISA law that was so wrongly abused during the election. I will always do the right thing for our country and put the safety of the American people first!”

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which the Senate voted to renew with a few small tweaks this week, allows the U.S. to spy on foreigners overseas. The intelligence community says the program is a critical tool in identifying and disrupting terror plots.

But the broader surveillance law, which governs U.S. spying on foreigners, has become politically entangled with the controversy over the federal investigation into Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Some Republicans have claimed that the FBI inappropriately obtained a politically motivated FISA warrant to spy on Trump during the transition and on Friday, Capitol Hill was consumed with speculation about a four-page memo produced by House Intelligence Committee Republicans that some GOP lawmakers hinted contained evidence of such wrongdoing.

Conservatives have called for the classified memo to be released publicly and some privacy advocates briefly tried to use the furor to urge Trump not to sign the bill.

“The Intelligence Committee memo about government surveillance abuses should have been made public and given to members of Congress before the FISA Section 702 vote,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted. “Trump must veto the bill so there can be a real debate on these powers.”

Trump himself had previously muddied the waters on the legislation. The morning that the House was scheduled to vote on the measure — which his administration supported — he tweeted that “This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”

Later, he clarified that he “has personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land.”

Supporters of the surveillance program have repeatedly complained that issues such as unmasking have been conflated with Section 702.

Tags American Civil Liberties Union Donald Trump Donald Trump Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Section 702 Trump Tower wiretapping allegations

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