FISA Clears Hurdle, Passes With Spying Intact

U.S. Capitol Building
U.S. Capitol Building | Image by ANDREY DENISYUK/Getty Images

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization bill passed by the House on Friday was nearly stopped in its tracks by a tactical maneuver by recalcitrant Republicans on Monday.

The bill appeared on its way to the upper chamber with its Section 702 warrantless spying permission mostly unencumbered, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) had desired. However, a last-minute parliamentary maneuver by Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) attempted to force a reconsideration of an amendment voted down last week. The amendment would have placed a warrant requirement into Section 702 of the FISA bill, which would apply when Americans could be subject to surveillance, as reported by Red State.

Authored by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), the amendment failed on Friday by the narrowest of margins (212-212) since ties go against the proposal. However, 13 members of the House did not vote last week, and one of those members, Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), said she would not have supported the bill as it was.

Ultimately, another motion to table, or set aside, Luna’s motion to reconsider won out in a Monday evening vote, 259-128, effectively sending the FISA bill on to the Senate for consideration.

The Dallas Express reported earlier that some Republicans had accused Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) of betrayal for siding with President Joe Biden’s DOJ and facilitating the passage of FISA without a warrant amendment.

As DX reported, a House oversight report had found that the FBI had improperly used the information gathered on domestic persons almost 300,000 times, including against January 6 Capitol protesters and Black Lives Matter activists.

In explaining his change of heart, Johnson said that he started out wary of FISA’s warrantless surveillance too, having learned of the thousands of alleged abuses, but that he changed his mind after confidential briefings he received from the DOJ.

“When I was a member of the Judiciary [Committee] I saw all the abuses of the FBI. The terrible abuses. Over and over and over. The hundreds of thousands of abuses. And when I became Speaker, I went to the [sensitive compartmented information facility] and got the confidential briefing from sort of the other perspective on that to understand the necessity of Section 702 of FISA and how important it is for national security and it gave me a different perspective,” Johnson told reporters last week.

Commenters immediately pounced upon his admission, speculating that the speaker’s flip-flop resulted from him being compromised.

“He was either bought or honey potted,” social media user Scott Smialkowski posted on X.

Ironically, as DX previously reported, the danger that Section 702 warrantless surveillance could be used for blackmail is one of the reasons why many oppose it.

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