Monday, 2 Aug 2021

After Trump-Russia probe, U.S. congress to tighten federal surveillance rules

Congress has taken a first step toward addressing errors made by the FBI during its investigation of the Trump campaign and Russia, with the House passing legislation Wednesday that would impose new restrictions on the federal government’s surveillance tools.

The legislation is a compromise that reflects angst in both parties about the way the surveillance powers have been used, but also a reluctance to strip those powers from the government’s arsenal.

The bipartisan bill, negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, would renew several provisions the FBI sees as vital to fighting terrorism even as it aims to ensure stricter oversight of how the bureau conducts surveillance.

The compromise, which passed 278-136, came after Republicans and Democrats in the House broadly agreed that they did not want civil liberties sacrificed in efforts to thwart terrorism and other crimes. Republicans had been aggressively seeking changes to the law since the Russia investigation, while many Democrats already had concerns about government surveillance.

The Senate is poised to pass the bill, as well, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement with several other Republicans saying they “strongly support this legislation and urge all of our Senate colleagues to join us.”

The statement said the legislation “balances the need to reauthorize these critical authorities with the need for tailored reforms to increase accountability.” Signing on with McConnell were Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, Texas Sen. John Cornyn and South Dakota Sen. John Thune.

It was not immediately clear whether Trump would sign it. And a handful of Republican and Democratic senators have strongly criticized the House measure, possibly threatening procedural delays.

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