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House votes to reauthorize surveillance law after striking deal on reforms

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Washington — The House voted to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on Wednesday after reaching a bipartisan deal that includes several reforms just days before the measure is set to expire. The measure was renewed with a bipartisan vote of 278 to 136.

The use of FISA to obtain warrants to surveil American citizens has been under intense scrutiny after an internal watchdog report found multiple instances of misconduct by law enforcement who monitored a former Trump campaign official under the act.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a joint statement Tuesday evening that House leaders had reached a deal on the bill, known the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020.

"Along with the House Leadership, we have engaged in bipartisan negotiations with input from many members to get to a deal on reforming FISA while reauthorizing important national security provisions set to expire this weekend. Through those negotiations, we have been able to incorporate significant reforms to increase civil liberty and privacy protections to the base bill, and additional provisions that should garner bipartisan support," Nadler and Schiff said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday she expected a "strong and bipartisan vote" to approve the measure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators released a statement endorsing the legislation after the House vote, indicating that the Senate will take up the measure before the Sunday deadline.

The White House has not said whether the president would sign the bill as currently written, but a senior Justice Department official told CBS News on Tuesday that the administration is "pleased with the direction that we're headed."

Attorney General William Barr announced his support for the legislation on Wednesday.

"I have reviewed the House FISA bill and support its passage. The bill contains an array of new requirements and compliance provisions that will protect against abuse and misuse in the future while ensuring that this critical tool is available when appropriate to protect the safety of the American people," Barr said in a statement, adding that the measure deserves "broad bipartisan support."

The Justice Department inspector general's report released late last year revealed "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in FISA applications beginning in 2016 for four warrants to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide who was erroneously suspected of being a Russian agent. Although the report found no political bias in opening the investigation into the Trump campaign, Republicans and the president railed against the FISA abuses uncovered in the report.

The deal reached by House leaders would require officers overseeing FISA applications to certify that the Justice Department has been fully informed of any issues with the accuracy of the application, and require that agencies submitting applications appoint officers to ensure the applications are compliant with the law.

The bill also includes measures to assuage concerns by Democrats and libertarians worried about government overreach in surveilling of American citizens, such as ending the National Security Agency's to collect call detail records. It also includes measures to increase transparency, requiring the Justice Department to publish reports explaining its positions on how information is derived for FISA applications.

Clare Hymes contributed reporting.

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