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House strikes deal to renew FISA, but with significant reforms

Several provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act are set to expire soon

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DOJ December 2019
DOJ December 2019
(Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Updated: March 10, 2020 - 10:57pm

The House forged a bipartisan deal late Wednesday to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ahead of a March 15 deadline while making significant reforms to address failures exposed in the botched Russia probe.

Both Republican and Democratic House leadership publicly praised the agreement, but some legislators have voiced objections to the deal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) anticipates that the deal to pass in "a strong bipartisan vote" on Wednesday.

“Language establishes a new Compliance Office at the FBI, requires the Attorney General to approve FISA investigations of elected officials or federal candidates, increases the punishment for unauthorized disclosure of FISA applications, authorizes an amicus to be appointed to political activity cases involving American citizens, increases Congressional oversight, and much more," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a press release about the agreement.

The approaching March 15 deadline concerns various aspects of surveillance, including "authority for federal intelligence agents to surveil suspects who change phones" and "authority to monitor people acting as 'lone wolves' — inspired by, but not necessarily at the direction of, foreign powers," according to Politico

The deadline also concerns "the authority to access business records and email metadata of suspects," the news outlet also reported. 

Lawmakers essentially agree on the value of the secret court to members the intelligent community, as they seek warrants for such activities as eavesdropping on calls. However, an inspector general's report on how the FBI mishandled applications for such court orders in the Russia collusion investigation has resulted in calls for change.

Politico reported that President Trump indicated in a meeting last week that he will not approve a FISA extension. He instead wants a bipartisan FISA deal from Congress.

He is encouraging lawmakers to "strike a long-term agreement," the outlet also reported. 

But before it reaches Trump's desk it will need to clear both the House and Senate where some lawmakers are urging the president to veto the bill.

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