Government surveillance bill withdrawn in U.S. House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House of Representatives is dropping consideration of legislation that would have extended U.S. surveillance tools, the chamber’s number two Democrat said on Thursday, after President Donald Trump threatened a veto and his fellow Republicans withdrew their support.

“The two-thirds of the Republican Party that voted for this bill in March have indicated they are going to vote against it now,” Representative Steny Hoyer said in a statement on Thursday, after a vote on the measure was unexpectedly postponed late on Wednesday.

“I am told they are doing so at the request of the President. I believe this to be against the security interest of the United States and the safety of the American people,” Hoyer said.

The parts of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that would have been renewed until December 2023 cover the FISA court’s approval of warrants for business records, allow surveillance without establishing that a subject is acting on behalf of an extremist group, and allow continued eavesdropping on a subject who has changed cellular telephone providers.

They expired in March.

U.S. intelligence agencies and other backers of the measures say they are essential for fighting militant extremism, but they are opposed by privacy activists, including liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning progressives, who say they do too little to protect Americans’ privacy.

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