President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law a measure that reauthorizes powerful electronic surveillance tools for another six years.
The president announced in a tweet that he signed the bill to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“This is NOT the same FISA law that was so wrongly abused during the election,” he wrote. “I will always do the right thing for our country and put the safety of the American people first!”
The legislation imposes only modest tweaks to the sweeping warrantless programs that intercept the digital traffic of foreign targets but also incidentally hoover up the personal information on an unknown number of Americans.
The measure passed over the opposition of privacy-minded Democrats and libertarian Republicans, who joined forces to argue that the 702 spying tools allow the government to conduct warrant-free searches on Americans.
The Senate approved the bill Thursday, one week after it sailed through the House despite an eleventh-hour tweet by the president that appeared to trash the measure and sent GOP leaders scrambling to shore up support.
Trump’s Friday tweet alluded to his previous comments, which implied that the FISA 702 statute had been used to spy on Trump aides during the 2016 election, a claim for which the president has provided no evidence.
Regardless, 702 has been pulled into broader debates about FISA surveillance, domestic wiretaps and the so-called unmasking process by which Americans’ identities can be exposed in intelligence reports.
Some 702 critics on Friday even made a last-ditch attempt to stall the statute’s renewal, citing a classified report that some Republican lawmakers say details FISA abuses. The House Intelligence Committee voted earlier this week to grant their colleagues access to the document. It’s unknown if the memo has anything to do with Section 702 itself.
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