Home » House to Decide on Ending Warrantless Searches with Upcoming FISA Renewal Vote, Sparks GOP Tension

House to Decide on Ending Warrantless Searches with Upcoming FISA Renewal Vote, Sparks GOP Tension

by Richard A Reagan

An amendment aimed at ceasing warrantless surveillance on Americans is set to be deliberated as the House of Representatives prepares for a final vote on the renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). [Source]

On the evening of Tuesday, the House Rules Committee gave its nod to a cross-party amendment designed to stop “warrantless searches of U.S. person communications in the FISA 702 database, with exceptions for imminent threats to life or bodily harm, consent searches, or known cybersecurity threat signatures.”

This amendment is now poised for debate and vote on the House floor as part of the broader legislation. 

Section 702 of the FISA, authorizes the government to perform targeted surveillance on foreign individuals located outside the United States without a warrant.

FBI Director Chris Wray has contended that imposing a warrant requirement could compromise national security.

However, proponents of the amendment maintain that conducting surveillance without warrants under FISA violates constitutional rights.

The proposed “Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act” seeks to extend Section 702 for an additional five years but faces significant opposition from lawmakers advocating for stringent privacy protections.

Key figures in this bipartisan effort include Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who have introduced amendments to embed a warrant requirement for U.S. person queries in foreign intelligence collection.

In a post on X, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) questioned the necessity of a carve-out for Congress if the program was constitutional, stating, “Ask yourself: If there’s nothing wrong or unconstitutional in this program, why does Congress want a carve out for itself?”

Moreover, an amendment proposed by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) aims to improve oversight by mandating the FBI to report the number of U.S. person queries conducted quarterly to Congress.

Despite the passage of some amendments aimed at tightening surveillance practices, a proposed amendment prohibiting law enforcement and intelligence agencies from purchasing U.S. persons’ communications and location data without a court order was not successful in committee.

The ongoing FISA renewal has galvanized a division within the Republican Party, struggling to reconcile national security interests with the imperative to safeguard American citizens’ privacy rights. [Source]

“It’s delicate right now. The place is about to combust,” a GOP source on Capitol Hill reported to the Daily Caller, indicating the tension and division within the Republican Party over balancing national security interests with the rights of Americans. 

Former President Donald Trump’s influence looms large in the debate, turning FISA into a significant issue for the Republican base. Trump’s allegations that FISA was misused to spy on his campaign have fueled demands for substantial reform. 

Rep. Mike Lee criticized the lack of substantial reform in the proposed legislation, stating, “RISAA doesn’t go nearly far enough in protecting Americans from illegal spying by their own government. It is a sham reform, and House Republicans should not vote for any FISA reauthorization that lacks a warrant requirement.” 

This division is further highlighted by the comments of a GOP source prior to Speaker Mike Johnson’s decision to advance RISAA to the floor, “FISA is tricky right now. It’s expected that Mike Johnson will just roll over on this — like everything else he’s done,” pointing to concerns within the party about leadership’s commitment to substantive reform.

Speaker Mike Johnson faces increasing pressure from within his party, with criticism from notable figures like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and accusations of insufficient action toward substantive FISA reform.

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