Trump refusing to rubber stamp FISA renewal, demands post-Russia surveillance reforms

Law raises concerns about extent feds can spy on Americans

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President Trump giving a thumbs up
President Trump with Air Force Col. D.W. Schmidt at Joint Base Andrews, Md.
The White House
Last Updated:
March 5, 2020 - 12:41pm

President Trump has told congressional Republican leaders that he will not support a clean reauthorization of surveillance laws without significant reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court system that was abused during the Russia collusion probe, a senior White House official says.

The surveillance provisions are set to expire on March 15, and the White House indicated to Republican leaders Tuesday that it would support only a temporary, 30-day extension to allow Congress to iron out the reforms. 

House Democratic leaders have indicated publicly they are open to bipartisan compromise.

“Just got back from the White House. @realDonaldTrump made it abundantly clear that he will NOT accept a clean reauthorization of the Patriot Act without significant FISA reform! I agree with him!” Kentucky GOP Sen Rand Paul tweeted Tuesday.

Trump and other Republicans have expressed frustration with reported abuses of the FISA program including some -- outlined in a report by the Department of Justice’s Office Of The Inspector General -- by the FBI in its surveillance of Carter Page, a former 2016 Trump campaign adviser.

Paul told Fox Business he suggested to the president that one reform include banning the use of FISA courts -- “which is a foreign intelligence court” -- to spy on American citizens. 

Paul instead suggests that intelligence gatherers be required to get approval from a “Constitutional, Article 3 court” to surveil American citizens.

 “This would protect Americans from the abuses that happened to the Trump campaign,” Paul told Fox Business host Lou Dobbs. “But these abuses could happen to Republicans or Democrats if we have biased people in either the FBI or the intelligence agencies, so I think the best reform is let’s take Americans out of FISA, and let’s keep the foreign surveillance court targeted towards foreigners.”

An additional possible reform discussed by lawmakers is the installment of a special master or some type of representative for an accused party, who could represent the rights of unwitting secret surveillance targets.

In a recent interview with Just The News, Page said Paul was "kind of stating the obvious" about protections that were already in place but ignored during the 2016 election.

Page also expressed doubt about any proposed FISA reforms preventing further abuses, unless there was strong enforcement mechanisms.

"I think Article 3, in terms of the courts, those devices, broadly speaking, were intact -- or should have been intact -- in 2016. And they got completely obliterated. You can have things 'by the book,' but if the books are completely blown off or ignored or sidetracked, then these various conceptual frameworks can just be obliterated in no time flat ...

"These are all big problem areas, and if people across all branches of government, whether it's our legislature of Congress, whether it's the executive branch of these various departments and agencies, whether it's the courts in terms of U.S. federal courts, if people aren’t doing their job or if people are complete liars, whatever these frameworks are they kind of thrown by the wayside.”

 

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