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House progressives, conservatives team up to call on Congress not to reauthorize FISA

Rep. Jayapal says the "privacy of Americans should be of the utmost importance to our government, and yet, we have seen too many examples of unchecked, warrantless surveillance of Americans." The impact of current FISA practices on Americans' civil liberties has been criticised by both sides of the aisle.

Published: November 29, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: November 30, 2023 10:52am

House progressives and conservatives are teaming up to call on Congress not to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which expires in one month, by tying it to the defense spending bill. 

Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, sent a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday that was signed by more than 50 lawmakers from both parties.

The group of lawmakers support reforming FISA as a standalone bill that would end warrantless surveillance under section 702. 

“The intelligence community is attacking our Fourth Amendment privacy rights. Rogue actors continue to abuse FISA Section 702 to improperly spy on American citizens, and it is far past time for the practice to come to an end. The Fourth Amendment guarantees Americans a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the government should never be given the opportunity to skirt the supreme Law of the Land," Biggs said in a statement.

"Reauthorization of this spying authority cannot be tied to a massive piece of ‘must-pass’ legislation like the NDAA. This would be an affront to the American people—who have voiced their strong disapproval of Section 702—and to the integrity of the legislative process. The Judiciary Committee is on the cusp of marking up a standalone FISA reform bill and I urge my colleagues to support its reforms. I am thankful for Rep. Davidson and Rep. Lofgren’s leadership on this important issue," Biggs added.

Jayapal said that the "privacy of Americans should be of the utmost importance to our government, and yet, we have seen too many examples of unchecked, warrantless surveillance of Americans." 

She said a FISA overhaul is "necessary to protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights and their sensitive, personal data. Section 702 reauthorization should be subject to strong scrutiny and debate and cannot be included in larger, must-pass legislation." She called on Congress to "stop the government from warrantlessly spying on Americans.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., vice chair of the committee, introduced a bill on Tuesday to reform FISA but it would not require the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain a warrant before searching the National Security Agency's database for Americans' emails or phone records. 

In early November, a bipartisan group of lawmakers proposed the Government Surveillance Reform Act of 2023, which would require the FBI to obtain a warrant, among other reforms.

“The FBI wants Congress to reauthorize FISA 702 without requiring a warrant to spy on Americans,”wrote Rep. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on X. “The FBI’s part of the problem. The FBI *is* the problem. Congress must pass the Government Surveillance Reform Act.”

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