WASHINGTON — Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) amendments expire at the end of the year unless Congress votes to reauthorize them — but some members are unsure if that should happen.
The deadline comes amid the House and Senate Intelligence Committees’ investigation into Russian influence peddling in the 2016 election.
FISA gives the legal structure that enables the government to amass foreign intelligence material via physical searches, wiretapping and other search techniques.
House Judiciary Committee members met last week to discuss the fate of Section 702, a key provision of the FISA Amendments Act that sets up legal protocols for federal law enforcement to follow when collecting intercepts of individuals off U.S. soil for foreign monitoring intents.
One Judiciary Committee member, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, told The Daily Caller Thursday night his concern about the recent behavior of the intelligence community in relation to the sensitive leaks about the activities of the Trump administration. Gohmert pointed to the unmasking of General Michael Flynn’s name in a wiretap that was leaked to the press.
Flynn briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser until his resignation last month over the recording of his meeting with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
“If the intelligence communities cannot work together to give us the names of people that violated the law by leaving [Flynn]’s name unmasked by leaving the conversation and unmasked, and not having to minimize it as we were assured, then I have no trust in reauthorizing the 702 authority to wiretap foreign agents,” Gohmert said. “And all it would take is a few Republicans joining with the Democrats and they will no longer legally have the authority to keep tapping foreign agents like that.”
Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan appeared unsure about the amendments at the committee hearing on FISA itself saying, “Is 702 consistent with the Constitution? That’s the fundamental question.”
Despite his proclamation that Trump Tower was wire tapped by the order of the previous administration, President Donald Trump released a statement saying he supports the amendments reauthorization without any changes.
Other members on the Judiciary Committee want to at least see some privacy reforms made of the amendments before any reauthorization happens.
“The idea of using this authority to collect a large amount of information about United States citizens without a warrant or individualized suspicion and then applying that information to purposes having nothing to do with counter-intelligence or counter-terrorism is in a word, wrong,” Democratic Michigan Rep. John Conyers told The Washington Times.
The amendments were first approved by Congress in 2008 after information surfaced that President George W. Bush gave the National Security Agency power to capture communications of individuals suspected of having ties to terrorist organizations who were outside the United States.