Battle Looms As Congress Moves To Renew FISA Provision


The renewal of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is set for a showdown on Capitol Hill.

Scheduled for a vote Thursday, a battle looms with Republican Michigan Rep. Justin Amash mobilizing a bipartisan group of House members demanding changes and Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul threatening to filibuster the bill in the Senate if there aren’t any revisions.

Section 702 of FISA allows warrantless wiretapping of internet and phone networks with data collected and stored, which has sometimes ensnared the communications of innocent Americans.

Libertarian-leaning members of the House and Senate have authored a bill that would require a warrant before that data is read and used by law enforcement when the subject is an American citizen.

The law expires on January 21.

A bipartisan coalition of House members sent a letter to leadership last month threatening to shut down the government if 702 reauthorization were part of any spending bill.

Now a vote is expected Thursday and, according to The New York Times, “it is far from clear whether Congress will impose significant new safeguards for Americans’ privacy.”

House coalition members have been tweeting their concerns on the subject for days:

Amash is offering an amendment, called the USA RIGHTS Act, to reform Section 702, requiring a federal warrant be obtained before the data is searched and limit the renewal period from six years to only four.

The ACLU and Gun Owners of America (GOA), two groups sitting on opposite ends of the political spectrum, are both pushing hard to support the Amash amendment.

In a letter to Congress, GOA executive director Erich Pratt wrote,

“At the end of the process, the government will still be allowed to wiretap billions of conversations and e-mails. The question is whether there will be any new, meaningful limitations on the government’s ability to wiretap gun owners — and all of its citizens — other than its own good will.”

The ACLU urged Congress to vote “no” if the Amash amendment is not part of the final bill.

“The ACLU strongly opposes S.139 in its current form and urges you to vote “NO” on the bill unless it is amended,” a letter from the group states.

It added that the ACLU would be scoring the vote, or using how a Congress member voted to determine support for their reelection.



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