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House votes to extend Intelligence Surveillance Act


Voterama in Congress

Sunday, January 14, 2018

WASHINGTON -- Here's how area members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending Jan. 12.


Extension of warrantless surveillance program: Voting 256 for and 164 against, the House on Jan. 11 approved a six-year extension (S 139) of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The post 9/11 law is a key government tool for detecting and preventing foreign-based terrorist activity, but also a target of criticism that it imperils the privacy rights of innocent Americans.

The law gives agencies including the National Security Agency (NSA) and FBI warrantless access to commercial databases of foreigners' voice and digital communications - phone calls, emails, online chats, text messaging and social-media postings -- that pass through wireless and landline facilities in the United States. If agencies use the databases to target Americans suspected of terrorist connections, they must obtain FISA-court warrants based on probable cause. When the government inadvertently sweeps up innocent Americans' communications, the information must be expunged or disregarded, although the law lacks a means for outsiders to see if that has occurred.

FISA was enacted in 1978 to govern domestic collection of foreign intelligence while protecting Americans' civil liberties, and it has been amended several times to address post-9/11 terrorism threats. The law's secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which issues blanket and specific warrants and monitors government compliance with the law, is comprised of sitting federal judges who serve on a rotating basis.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting yes: Virginia Foxx, R-5, Mark Walker, R-6, David Rouzer, R-7, Richard Hudson, R-8, Robert Pittenger, R-9

Voting no: G.K. Butterfield, D-1, Walter Jones, R-3, David Price, D-4, Mark Meadows , R-11, Ted Budd, R-13

Not voting: Patrick McHenry, R-10, Alma Adams, D-12

Privacy Rights in Surveillance Law: Voting 183 for and 233 against, the House on Jan. 11 defeated a measure aimed at safeguarding Fourth Amendment privacy rights under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The amendment to S 139 (above) sought to protect innocent Americans whose voice and digital communications with foreigners are swept up in government collections of information on foreigners suspected of terrorist activity.

The amendment would have prohibited "backdoor searches" for information on Americans in commercial telecom databases without a specific FISA-court warrant based on probable cause. It also would prohibit "reverse targeting," warrantless database searches aimed at foreign subjects that end up targeting Americans as well. In addition, the amendment would allow the FISA law's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review all government foreign-intelligence surveillance programs, not just ones related to terrorism.

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.

Voting yes: Butterfield, Jones, Price (NC), Meadows, Budd

Voting no: Foxx, Walker, Rouzer, Hudson, Pittenger

Not voting: McHenry, Adams

Expanded Limits on FBI Searches: Voting 189 for and 227 against, the House on Jan. 11 defeated a motion that would expand the types of FBI searches of commercial telecom databases that require specific search warrants under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The underlying bill (S 139, above) requires the FBI to obtain FISA-court warrants based on probable cause for searches targeting Americans in investigations specifically linked to national security and foreign intelligence. This measure sought to require FISA-court warrants for all FBI searches of databases to which the government has access under Section 702 of the FISA law.

Voting yes: Butterfield, Jones, Price 

Voting no: Foxx, Walker, Rouzer, Hudson, Pittenger, Meadows, Budd

Not voting: McHenry, Adams

Labor rights on tribal lands: Voting 239 for and 173 against, the House on Jan. 10 passed a bill (S 140) that would remove Indian reservations from the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) on grounds they are sovereign nations and therefore exempt from that New Deal-era workplace law. This would take away collective-bargaining rights and other federally guaranteed employment rights now available to 600,000 or more workers at casinos on reservations, at least three-fourths of whom are not tribal members. The National Labor Relations Board has applied the NLRA to commercial enterprises on Indian reservations since 2004.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting yes: Jones, Foxx, Walker, Rouzer, Hudson, Pittenger, Meadows, Budd

Voting no: Butterfield, Price

Not voting: McHenry, Adams


Extension of warrantless surveillance program: The Senate on Jan. 11 voted, 68 for and 27 against, to start legislative action on a House-passed measure (S 139, above) that would extend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) through 2023, with debate and a final vote on the bill expected within days.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Voting yes: Thom Tillis, R, Richard Burr, R