Anti-terror tool’s reapproval stalls in House | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Anti-terror tool’s reapproval stalls in House

Measure to reform spy act fails to advance

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., House Freedom Caucus Chairman Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

Anti-terror tool’s reapproval stalls in House

Americans do not leave their constitutional rights behind when they step outside the borders of the country. So before Congress reauthorizes one of the country’s chief spy tools, a bipartisan group of House members wants to make sure the power does what it’s supposed to: conduct surveillance on foreigners, not Americans. And to do that, they want to pull the lasso taut on any loopholes that could expose U.S. citizens to unlawful data breaches.

Other lawmakers fear that the fix they have in mind will end up asphyxiating the intelligence agencies tasked with protecting the United States.

Those policy disagreements boiled over on Wednesday afternoon as a vote to advance a reform package failed 193-228 in the House. Nineteen Republicans voted against the measure.

When asked why he voted against advancing the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good, R-Va., said the bill simply doesn’t do enough to protect Americans.

“The constitutional liberties of Americans have to come first,” Good said. “We don’t suspend the constitution for anything.”

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI to collect the private communications of international, non-American targets suspected of posing a security threat to the United States. But in recent years, internal reports overviewing the power’s use have revealed instances where Americans have also been caught in the crosshairs.

Among other changes, the bill would have increased the penalties for misusing the surveillance power, enhanced reporting requirements, and limited who can access the information. But to lawmakers like Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the reforms did not go far enough.

“The base text has some reforms I think make sense, but the fundamental question is are the new requirements going to be enough to safeguard Americans’ liberties? For me, I think the thing that counts the most is the warrant requirement amendment. That was in the base text of the bill that came out of our committee,” Jordan said.

Jordan believes that anytime the intelligence community looks to collect new data on an American—or anytime the trove of already-collected information is searched for their data—the intelligence community should be forced to get a search warrant.

Many Democrats share that view, including the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.

“I certainly think we need a warrant. Mr. Jordan and I agree. We rarely agree on anything,” Nadler told me on Tuesday.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio., said a warrant requirement is not necessary and other provisions in the bill are good enough.

“We are here because the intelligence community failed us,” Turner said on Tuesday. “This bill provides 55 reforms to the FISA court process, to the FBI’s process, and to the use and the collection of the 702 data.”

Turner said reforms such as heightened criminal penalties of up to 10 years behind bars would deter future FISA abuses. And he fiercely opposed Jordan’s proposal for warrant requirements. When Americans’ communications overlap with those of a foreign threat, he believes the requirement would needlessly encumber the intelligence community.

“The courts have ruled that you have no constitutional right to privacy as an American to correspond with an ISIS head located abroad,” he said.

For now, the future of FISA reform efforts remains uncertain. U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has not said whether he plans to bring another bill to the floor later this week.

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


This keeps me from having to slog through digital miles of other news sites. —Nick

Sign up to receive The Stew, WORLD’s free weekly email newsletter on politics and government.

Please wait while we load the latest comments...