Trump criticizes, praises U.S. spying tool

Seema Verma administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services speaks during a news conference in Newark N.J. The Trump administration says it’s offering a path for states that want to seek work

Congress moved Thursday toward renewing a critical intelligence program despite a morning of confusion prompted by President Donald Trump's tweets, in which he appeared to support significant changes that his administration had worked for months to rebuff.

Critics, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on the right and Sen.

"'House votes on controversial FISA ACT today, '" Trump wrote, citing a Fox News headline.

The program is set to expire on January 19 unless Congress acts.

The House voted to renew a national security program that allows spy agencies to collect intelligence on foreign targets overseas, but an amendment that would have put more restrictions on data collection was voted down Thursday morning.

It allows the NSA and Federal Bureau of Investigation, in their surveillance on foreign targets outside of the country for national security purposes, to also collect and hold communications by USA citizens, so-called incidental collection.

The White House had opposed the amendment, and supported the bill as passed.

The program allows the government to gather foreign intelligence on USA soil. The White House has issued statements this week and asked lawmakers to reauthorize it. Goodlatte said the bill does have meaningful reforms, and he would have preferred more, but that the option was not between a flawless bill and letting the FISA section sunset.

He then partially walked back his comments, adding: "With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land".

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"The way I understand the president's position is that he wants some of the reforms, that he thinks that we ought to have a warrant to look at this and that there's a possibility that people with bias in the intelligence community could use that bias to actually abuse the system", he said. "We need it! Get smart!" he tweeted.

But House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has long said a clean reauthorization of Section 702, without any changes, would not pass the House, where the powerful Freedom Caucus has banded together with privacy-minded Democrats to advocate for tighter restrictions on how government investigators can use data gathered under the program.

Trump initially said on Twitter that the surveillance program, first created in secret after the September 11, 2001, attacks and later legally authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, had been used against him but later said it was needed.

Communications companies represented by the Computer & Communications Companies were not please with the amendment's failure or the bill's passage. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., spoke by phone with Trump, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was dispatched to the Hill.

U.S. intelligence agencies have pressed lawmakers to preserve the programs.

The White House, U.S. intelligence agencies and Republican leaders in Congress have said they consider the tool indispensable and in need of little or no revision.

The law also has been credited by intelligence officials with foiling terrorist plots to bomb the New York City subway system and the New York Stock Exchange. They are not using this data to prosecute Americans for tax evasion, they say - they are using it for terrorism cases. Though they would not have the force of law, Nunes has said he would still support renewing the program.

Trump's tweets drew criticism from a top democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of NY, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the Nunes bill is so "deeply flawed" that it jeopardizes the renewal of the anti-terrorism law altogether.

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