The committee followed the Senate in voting to extend provisions from the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which negates the need for a wiretap warrant if one of the parties is located outside the US and authorizes surveillance performed years earlier under the Bush Administration. Today’s markup can be found here.
The original bill was set to expire this year, but the extension would make it effective until June of 2017. Unlike in the Senate’s committee, where it was approved 13 to 2, the vote here was slightly more contested: 23 members voted for it, 11 against. The House Judiciary Committee’s action on Tuesday sends the measure to the House floor for a full vote.
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) offered an amendment requiring the government to disclose how many times — or at least an “estimate” of times — that the act captured the communications of Americans without warrants. That amendment failed 11-20.
Two lawmakers, Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) had asked the government how many persons inside the United States have been spied upon under the FISA Amendments Act. But the National Security Agency told lawmakers that it would be a violation of Americans’ privacy that to disclose how the measure is being used in practice.
The government does not have to identify the target or facility to be monitored, under the legislation. It can begin surveillance a week before making the request, and the surveillance can continue during the appeals process if, in a rare case, the secret FISA court rejects the surveillance application. The court’s rulings are not public.
The last time FISA was overhauled, in 2008, Democrats clashed bitterly with Republicans over the spying powers. There are signs that passions on the issue have cooled, observes The Hill.