House Republicans Rail Against Possible Extension Of Intelligence Agencies’ Warrantless Surveillance Program

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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Conservative members of the House Republican Conference attacked an extension of a controversial surveillance law in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual and important defense bill, according to The Hill.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is a provision that enables the government to conduct surveillance on foreign intelligence operatives in the United States, which can also be used to surveil Americans. A four-month long extension was included in the NDAA as part of conference negotiations with the Democratic-led Senate, which several House Republicans oppose, according to The Hill. (RELATED: House Judiciary Committee To Introduce Reform To Controversial US Warrantless Surveillance Law)

“We shouldn’t be doing an NDAA that’s watered down with a four-month extension. That’s absurd,” Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas told The Hill.

“I think there’s people that are going to vote against NDAA now because of the changes that were made,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, whose committee is considering a Republican-led effort to reform the law, said.

Republican Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee told The Hill he was “disappointed” about the law’s inclusion.

“You couldn’t waterboard me into voting to reauthorize 702,” Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida told The New York Times, with Gaetz having previously introduced a resolution to let Section 702 expire.

Opposition to Section 702 is not only latent among conservative Republicans, but is also shared by several left-wing civil liberties groups who have long claimed that the law is used to target U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the U.S.

“Although the surveillance may only be targeted at foreigners abroad, it inevitably sweeps in large amounts of Americans’ phone calls, texts, and emails. Congress and the FISA Court have attempted to limit the government’s access to these communications, but the government has engaged in widespread violations of these limits,” the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School wrote in November.

“[W]e should be concerned that Section 702 is and will be used to disproportionately target disfavored groups, whether minority communities, political activists, or even journalists,” the American Civil Liberties Union wrote.

Intelligence leaders have argued that Section 702 is essential to national security and must be reauthorized.

“[T]here is no way to replicate Section 702’s speed, reliability, specificity, and insight,” Attorney General Merrick Garland and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines wrote in a joint letter to Congress earlier this year.

Haines’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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