GOP refuses to reauthorize FISA until the FBI is reformed

June 3, 2023
Robert Ayers

The Washington Examiner reports that top House Republicans, much to the dismay of the Biden administration, are refusing to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) until reforms are made to the FBI. 

Section 702 is set to expire at the end of this year, and it will be up to Congress to reauthorize it.

The good side of Section 702

For those unfamiliar with Section 702, here is a brief overview from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ):

Section 702 . . . permits the government to conduct targeted surveillance of foreign persons located outside the United States, with the compelled assistance of electronic communication service providers, to acquire foreign intelligence information.

The DOJ goes on to explain how the use of this tool to gather foreign intelligence information is crucial to U.S. national security.

U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland has emphasized this point in a letter that he sent to Congress in February, imploring lawmakers to reauthorize Section 702. He wrote:

The authority allows the U.S. Government to acquire foreign intelligence information from individual terrorists, weapons proliferators, hackers, and other foreign intelligence targets located overseas who operate using U.S. electronic communications service providers . . . the information acquired using Section 702 plays a key role in keeping the United States, its citizens, and its allies safe and secure.

This is not the whole story, however.

The bad side of Section 702

Both the DOJ and Garland insist that Section 702 is only used by U.S. intelligence to spy on foreign actors. But, it turns out that this is not the case.

A recently unsealed court document shows that the FBI misused FISA over 300,000 times between 2020 and early 2021. It shows that the FBI used Section 702 to spy on Americans.

It is for this reason that House Republicans are refusing to simply reauthorize Section 702 without meaningful changes to the FBI. And, these Republicans are being joined by Senate Republicans and even some House and Senate Democrats.

"Reforms are necessary"

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) is among the top House Republicans who are leading the opposition to a simple reauthorization of Section 702.

Turner recently told the Examiner: 

We have been very clear on a bipartisan basis with the intelligence community and the FBI that there is no support in Congress for a clean reauthorization of 702. Reforms are necessary. We will be taking up the issue of reforms, and they will not be limited to 702 itself. It will encompass both abuses that we are aware of and abuses that are now in the public domain as a result of disclosure and Durham.

Here, Turner, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is referring to the findings of former special counsel John Durham regarding the Trump-Russia collusion hoax.

House Republicans are looking to reform not only the FBI but also the FISA Court, which authorizes FISA surveillance.

We'll have to see if the Republicans can obtain meaningful change here. It is certainly needed.

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