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House okays spy program after Trump tweets spark confusion

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., pauses while speakings during a news conference, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. After a morning of confusing tweets by President Donald Trump, the House on Thursday passed a bill to reauthorize a key foreign intelligence collection program with an important tweak: It requires the FBI to get a warrant if it wants to view the contents of Americans' communications swept up in the process. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Pablo Martinez Monsivais

  • President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Washington. Trump on Thursday pushed the House to renew a critical national security program that allows spy agencies to collect intelligence on foreign targets abroad. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. After a morning of confusing tweets by President Donald Trump, the House on Thursday passed a bill to reauthorize a key foreign intelligence collection program with an important tweak: It requires the FBI to get a warrant if it wants to view the contents of Americans' communications swept up in the process. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Pablo Martinez Monsivais

  • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, center, is escorted to the House chamber by Marc Short, left, the White House legislative liaison, just before the vote to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISA, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite



Associated Press
Thursday, January 11, 2018

President Donald Trump’s puzzling tweets about a key spying law threw the House into temporary disarray Thursday, but lawmakers ended up renewing the law – with a new restriction on when the FBI can dig into the communications of Americans swept up in foreign surveillance.

During a hectic morning of House votes and presidential tweets, Trump’s national intelligence director also issued new guidance for how officials can find out the names of Americans whose identities are blacked out in classified intelligence reports.

Trump has said previous rules were far too lax and led to damaging leaks about top aides, a claim fiercely contested by Democrats.

The new guidelines on “unmasking” Americans, however, were a side show to the House showdown over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, reauthorizing a collection program set to expire on Jan. 19. The bill passed 256-164 and is now headed to the Senate. It would extend for six years the program, which includes massive monitoring of international communications.

Trump has said he’ll sign the renewal, but his first tweets Thursday suggested he had suddenly turned against the program, alarming intelligence officials.

In one tweet, Trump linked the program to a dossier that alleges his presidential campaign had ties to Russia.

“ ‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,’ ” Trump wrote, citing a Fox News headline. “This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”

Trump then spoke by telephone with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

And a short time later, Trump changed his tune. “This vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land,” he tweeted. “We need it! Get smart!”