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House Extends Controversial Surveillance Program

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to renew a controversial surveillance program for the next six years, the New York Times reports.

The program, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allows the government to collect the communications of foreigners outside the United States without a warrant. The warrantless surveillance program was first approved by Congress in 2008 to give the government an edge against foreign terrorists, but critics say it unjustly collects data on innocent American citizens who may be communicating with foreign nationals.

The House rejected an amendment to the program that would have required officials to obtain warrants before rooting through data inadvertently collected on Americans. The vote to extend the program was passed 256 to 164.

The extension has been hailed as a victory for the Trump administration, despite the fact that President Donald Trump himself appeared to come out against the controversial program in a tweet early Thursday morning.

But after speaking hours later with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Trump said the U.S. needs the program for "foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land," the Times reports.

After the vote, the American Civil Liberties Union urged the Senate to reject the bill. "No president should have this power," Neema Singh Guliani, a policy counsel for the ACLU, said in a statement. "Yet, members of Congress just voted to hand it to an administration that has labeled individuals as threats based merely on their religion, nationality or viewpoints."