Amendment to end warrantless surveillance up for vote as FISA renewal bill moves to House floor

The bipartisan amendment that passed the House Rules Committee would prohibit 'warrantless searches of U.S. person communications in the FISA 702 database'
FBI Agent looks over evidence

A bill to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is moving to the House floor for a final vote, likely to take place by Thursday, and an amendment to end warrantless surveillance will be considered by the full House of Representatives.

The "Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act" would extend Section 702 of FISA for 5 years, which "permits the government to conduct targeted surveillance of foreign persons located outside the United States," according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans have teamed up in an effort to include a warrant requirement in the FISA renewal bill. Some members have said they would oppose a bill to reauthorize FISA without a provision to end warrantless surveillance. 

The Brennan Center for Justice and other organizations wrote a letter on April 5 urging lawmakers to vote in favor of amendments to the bill that will require a warrant.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who sponsored amendments to the FISA reauthorization bill related to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from conducting “unreasonable searches and seizures." One of those amendments to the bill includes requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before executing a "U.S. person query" for foreign intelligence collection under Section 702 of FISA. The current law has no such requirement.

On Tuesday evening, the House Rules Committee voted in favor of the bipartisan amendment that would prohibit "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." The amendment heads to the House floor for consideration in the legislation if the House votes to advance the bill.

FBI Director Chris Wray has argued that a warrant requirement would "endanger national security." Supporters of such a requirement argue that warrantless surveillance under FISA is unconstitutional.

An amendment offered by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, that is aimed at cracking down on abuse of FISA also passed. Roy's proposed amendment would require the FBI to "report to Congress on a quarterly basis the number of U.S. person queries conducted.” It also “grants the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Committees on Judiciary and Intelligence in the House and Senate, in addition to the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and the Minority Leader of the House, access to attend FISC proceedings."

A bipartisan amendment proposed by Biggs, Jayapal, Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., would have prohibited "law enforcement and Intelligence agencies from purchasing the content of communications and location data of U.S. persons without a court order." The amendment failed to pass out of committee. 

Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, offered an amendment that would enable the "use of Section 702 information to vet foreigners traveling to the United States." The amendment passed and it now heads to the House floor for consideration by the full House of Representatives.  

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., a member of the House Rules Committee, said there is a provision in the FISA renewal bill that requires the FBI to "notify and seek consent from Congress before violating the privacy of congressmen."

In a post on X, Massie wrote: "Ask yourself: If there’s nothing wrong or unconstitutional in this program, why does Congress want a carve out for itself?"