Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) should not be renewed. You can find a counterpoint here, where Charles Kolb argues that FISA, while flawed, should not be allowed to expire.
Instead of the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA),” we should rename it to the Federal Initiative to Spy on Americans Act, because that’s exactly what this unconstitutional surveillance program does.
Our government should not spy on Americans. They should feel confident their privacy is protected and that neither the government nor any agent affiliated with the government are abusing Americans’ constitutional rights. That’s why I oppose H.R. 6172, the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act.
When your house has foundational problems, you don’t slap a new coat of paint on the window shutters and say the problem is fixed. Instead, you call in experts to understand the problems, mitigate the underlying issues, and fix major structural problems that threaten to topple the entire house.
Unfortunately, the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act opts for the first course of action. While I appreciate my colleagues’ efforts to address problems that allowed the FBI to spy on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, this bill does nothing to address the pervasive structural problems that are allowing our Fourth Amendment rights to crumble before our eyes. President Trump has called for real reforms to FISA, not the watered-down efforts contained in this bill.
Let’s understand clearly that the Fourth Amendment shields our citizens so that they should “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act fails to restore these all-important protections. If our government is going to misuse FISA to spy on a presidential candidate, there’s no doubt in my mind that they won’t do the same to any other American.
The bill does nothing to stop the government from spying on our citizens without a warrant and fails to sufficiently protect activities that are protected by the First Amendment. While H.R. 6172 requires the Attorney General to sign off on politically sensitive FISA applications and expands the amicus curiae review process, how can we trust this process when individuals like David Kris, an anti-Trump partisan talking head from the Obama administration, are overseeing these reviews? Many of the other small victories in this bill are merely codifying changes that our intelligence agencies have already put into place.
I am disappointed to say that there was no hearing or markup on H.R. 6172. We did not bring in experts or weigh the pros and cons. Instead, the bill was written behind closed doors by a handful of people, and Members were given just one day to consider a monumental surveillance reauthorization that violates the Fourth Amendment. That is just plain wrong.
I will always fight to protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. The American people deserve a thoughtful debate that restores our rights and fixes the structural problems.
The American people deserve better.
Congressman Ken Buck is a Republican from Windsor, representing Colorado’s 4th Congressional District. He is currently on the House Judiciary Committee.