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:
It’s official—House leadership is trying to reauthorize #FISA702 for SIX YEARS without the reforms necessary to satisfy the #4thAmendment. Here’s the anti-liberty, anti-privacy bill we’ll be voting on next week, #S139: https://t.co/257AFdF6Ox. https://t.co/nQFlLsdia3
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 6, 2018
Some of my colleagues think the #4thAmendment is a relic that should be ignored. This week, they are pushing a bill, #S139, that violates the rights of every American, under the guise of protecting us from “dangers.”
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 8, 2018
Thanks to Sen. @RonWyden, Sen. @RandPaul, @RepZoeLofgren, @JudgeTedPoe, and other Democratic and Republican colleagues for joining me in support of the #USARIGHTSAct Amendment. Our efforts are making a difference. If the government wants to spy on an American, #GetAWarrant! pic.twitter.com/hrJD7JdWZ4
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 10, 2018
#Section702 enables massive, warrantless spying on Americans. I’m joining Rep. @justinamash, Sen. @RandPaul and a bipartisan group of House and Senate colleagues to speak out in support of FISA reform. Tune in. https://t.co/g0n4I1NKIU
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) January 10, 2018
— Ralph Norman (@RepRalphNorman) January 10, 2018
Reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act isn’t about Congress, it’s about the American people. It’s about the nature of the rights of citizens in a country that calls itself free. #FISA702 #BillOfRights pic.twitter.com/XFpKPszqRz
— Tom Garrett (@RepTomGarrett) January 10, 2018
This morning, I joined @justinamash and several of my House & Senate colleagues to support the USA Rights Act amendment. I hope that the House will adopt our bipartisan amendment tomorrow and ensure that our government protects the constitutional rights of all Americans. #AZ05pic.twitter.com/7dLiMecd7s
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) January 10, 2018
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.