No amendments for FISA Amendments Act reauthorization

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A five year reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act will come to the House floor under a closed rule, meaning that representatives will not be able to offer amendments.

The House approved Sept. 11 in a 223-179 vote mostly along party lines (Republicans for, Democrats against) a rule (H.Res. 773) outing terms of floor consideration of the reauthorization act (H.R. 5949).

During an earlier House Rules Committee hearing held that same day, Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.), the second ranking Democrat on the committee, argued for more open rule, stating that he supports an amendment offered earlier in the Judiciary Committee by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) that would limit the reauthorization to just 3 years.

"We can debate it, and if goes down in flames, and you win, so what--that's all I was looking for is whether or not you'd have any objection if we allow some of these thoughtful members…to have an opportunity to offer their amendments," McGovern said.

During the hearing Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), who testified for the bill on behalf of the House Judiciary Committee, argued that a 3 year reauthorization would be "a hindrance" to the intelligence community.

"Many of these investigations go on for a very long period of time," he said.

The FISA Amendment Act expires Dec. 31; it allows the intelligence community to intercept electronic communications without a warrant, provided the interceptions are targeted at suspected foreign state or terrorist agents located outside the United States.

The act and its renewal is a source of controversy, particularly over the extent to which it permits the National Security Agency to sweep up the communications of innocent citizens. Because the act allows the intelligence community to collect communications essentially at their initiative without the need to gain individualized authorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court--unless the target is a United States person reasonably believed to be outside the country--privacy advocates worry about the extent to which the NSA intercepts telecommunications traffic to and from abroad.

For more:
- go to the House Rules Committee hearing webpage on H.Res.773 (bill text, statements for the record and archived webcast available)

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