After failing to attach reforms, privacy groups have a last-ditch strategy: asking President Trump to veto legislation that reauthorizes internet-surveillance programs through 2023.
Reform advocates, many pointing to Trump as reason to add protections, tried unsuccessfully to amend a bill extending Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
"We urge President Trump to go with his gut and veto this bill," FreedomWorks vice president of legislative affairs Jason Pye said in a statement.
"Once the FISA reauthorization bill goes to President Trump, he should veto it. No federal agency should have the power to unconstitutionally spy on Americans," said Laila Abdelaziz, a campaigner with Fight for the Future.
Trump has denounced alleged surveillance affecting himself and "unmasking" of intercepts on allies, but he's unlikely to veto the bill, which executive branch authorities describe as essential to preventing terrorism.
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. We need it! Get smart!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2018
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did not immediately comment on Trump's intentions, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions heralded passage, saying the bill contains "tools to continue to keep the American people safe."
Reform advocates were most interested in imposing a warrant rule for access to domestic records swept into surveillance databases.
An unknown number of domestic communications are collected by the National Security Agency programs. Officials say calculating the number of people affected would needlessly harm privacy.
Section 702 underpins two large collection efforts, according to a 2014 report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Upstream collection takes records directly from the cables and switches that make up the internet's backbone. PRISM collection, meanwhile, takes records from "partner" companies such as Google and Microsoft.
Language that would establish a warrant rule for U.S. resident records passed the House in 2014 and 2015, but failed in 2016 shortly after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., and protections were voted down 183-233 in the House last week.
A warrant requirement effort failed more narrowly in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to end debate on a bill. Senators voted 60-38 to end debate without considering a privacy-enhancing amendment. One amendment sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted for cloture, preventing a vote on her own reform.
Requests for Trump to defy Congress and veto the bill differ from another popular messaging effort, pointing at Trump as the embodiment of why reform is needed.
When the privacy measure failed in the Senate, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who reported leaked documents on Section 702 programs, tweeted with sarcasm about Democrats empowering Trump: "19 members of the Senate #Resistance last night joined the 55 House #Resistance members last week (led by Pelosi & Schiff) in giving Trump & Sessions greater domestic spying powers while blocking all efforts to add reforms and safeguards."
Some privacy-advocating groups didn't bother urging Trump to veto the bill.
The group Demand Progress concluded in a Thursday statement that Democratic lawmakers supporting the bill "have ceded power to the executive branch to engage in mass and warrantless surveillance."
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging upstream collection in court on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation, tweeted: "No president should have this power, much less one who has endorsed policies designed to unfairly target critics, immigrants, and minority communities."