FISA renewal moves to Senate over protests; Allows spying on Americans, presidential candidates

Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, April 16, 2024

Having beaten back objections by conservatives, the Uniparty is moving full steam ahead on renewal of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which allows for warrantless spying on American citizens.

Is anyone concerned?

The record shows that FISA has even been used to deploy the U.S. intelligence community against a Republican presidential candidate, namely Donald Trump in 2016.

It was House Speaker Mike Johnson who cast the deciding vote that killed an amendment that would have required a warrant to conduct FISA spying on Americans. / Video Image

The less-than-outraged GOP-led House voted 259-128 on Monday to send the legislation to the Senate which is expected to vote on it, and pass it, as early as April 19.

Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona had proposed an amendment that would have included a warrant requirement in the bill, but it was defeated.

“The original intent of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was to be able to gather information on bad foreign actors. However, as we have seen over the years, the program has been abused to spy on American citizens in direct violation of American liberty and the 4th Amendment. The FISA court found that the federal government violated its own rules over 278,000 times,” said Florida Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, who opposed the legislation.

“It was FISA lawlessness that allowed the DOJ to spy on the Trump campaign via Carter Page. This kind of abuse is not reserved merely for Donald Trump but for all of us,” David P. Deavel of the University of St. Thomas in Houston wrote for AMAC on April 14.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden had warned the passage of Section 702 renewal would pave the way for the NSA “taking over the Internet” with a massive expansion of its surveillance powers.

Currently, the NSA can force Internet service providers such as Google and Verizon to hand over sensitive data concerning NSA targets.

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said that through an “innocuous change” to the definition of “electronic communications surveillance provider” in the FISA 702 bill, the U.S. government could go far beyond its current scope and force nearly every company and individual that provides any Internet-related service to assist with NSA surveillance.

“That sweeps in an enormous range of U.S. businesses that provide wifi to their customers and therefore have access to equipment on which communications transit. Barber shops, laundromats, fitness centers, hardware stores, dentist’s offices,” Goitein said.

Additionally, the people forced to hand over data would be unable to discuss the information provided due to hefty gag order penalties and conditions outlined in the bill, added Goitein.

As for the Biggs amendment, the vote was a 212-212 tie. It was House Speaker Mike Johnson who issued the 212th vote against, thus defeating the amendment.

“Too often, Republicans have ended up being the echo and not the choice; a junior party in the Uniparty and not a challenger to it; a slightly cleaned up puddle that still smells of the Swamp,” Deavel wrote. “These failures have bred distrust — and trust is the ultimate currency of politics.”

Trump last week had urged Republicans to “kill” the FISA bill.

Journalist and conservative political activist M. Stanton Evans liked to say: “We have two parties, and only two. One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party. I’m very proud to be a member of the stupid party. Occasionally the two parties get together to do something that’s both evil and stupid. That’s called bipartisanship.”

Deavel added: “If Republicans want to win in November, they need to win back the trust of the American people. They need to show Americans that they aren’t stupid and won’t deal with evil. They should get their act together and figure out how to protect Americans from our enemies while also protecting them from searches without warrants.”

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