Bipartisan Coalition Takes Action To End Warrantless Surveillance On Americans

Screenshot/YouTube/Ron Wyden

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Jason Cohen Contributor
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A group of bipartisan lawmakers announced Tuesday they are introducing reform to an expiring controversial warrantless surveillance tool.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) enables U.S. intelligence agencies to surveil American citizens without a warrant, but this reform would end that, according to a press conference on the Government Surveillance Reform Act. The goal of this new legislation is to “reauthorize and reform Section 702,” as well as safeguard Americans’ rights while maintaining the tool’s crucial surveillance authorities, according to an advisory on Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s website. (RELATED: FBI Agents Misused FISA Data To Surveil ‘Political Party,’ US Congressman, Audit Finds)

There were millions of warrantless backdoor searches using Section 702 of FISA in 2021, according to an Office of the Director of National Intelligence 2022 Transparency report. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz was unable to answer how many people in the federal government can use it on Americans through these backdoor searches in April testimony.

“The Government Surveillance Reform Act would end warrantless backdoor searches of Americans within the Section 702 database, prohibit the targeting of foreigners for the purposes of collecting Americans’ communications and ensure intelligence agencies’ employees are in fact held accountable when they violate these things,” Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee said in the press conference.

Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson, Democratic California Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona also took part in announcing this effort. Dozens of civil society groups have endorsed the bill, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), according to Wyden’s press release.

“Protecting our constitutional rights and national security are not mutually exclusive goals,” James Czerniawski, senior policy analyst at AFP, said in a statement shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Government Surveillance Reform Act is a critical step toward restoring trust, protecting constitutional rights, and maintaining public safety.”

Section 702 of FISA is set to expire at the end of December. FBI Director Christopher Wray is worried that ending the warrantless searches could lead to national security risks, he told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs in October.

The FBI declined to comment. It pointed the DCNF to Wray’s October statement.

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