Spy Program REJECTED – GOP Say NO!

The Foreign Intelligence Services Act (FISA), whose section 702 creates the framework that was used by the NSA as a pretext for its extensive wiretapping of American citizens and other programs revealed by Edward Snowden in 2012, may be finally facing a reckoning.

FISA, which requires re-authorization every few years, is currently up for renewal. Despite expectations that the law would pass without significant opposition. The renewal even included a sweetheart deal exempting congress-members from surveillance under the act. The deal requires the FBI to “promptly notify’ both congressional leadership and the target to any surveillance by the FBI upon any member of Congress.

The drama took a surprise turn on April 10, when nineteen Republican representatives joined with a group of Democrats to block debate on the bill. The move followed calls by former President Donald Trump to “Kill FISA,” citing it as the pretext under which Federal agencies spied on his 2016 Presidential campaign. Whether because of Trump’s urging, or for their own reasons, the coalition of Republicans and Democrats defeated the attempt to advance Section 702 re-authorization by a margin of 228 (opposed) to 193 (in favor).

Should Congress fail to act soon, Section 702 will expire on April 19, potentially marking a major milestone in domestic surveillance activity in the post-9/11 era.

Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson was not pleased with these developments, calling the 702 spy powers “critically important,” though he did not address the constitutional concerns that citizens and his colleagues have long voiced about the program.

Johnson has recently come under fire from former supporters, such as Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Green, for a series of changes in his policy positions regarding the National Security state. Whereas before Johnson’s election as Speaker, he was generally hostile towards such measures as section 702, he has since done a 180, becoming a vocal supporter of expanded Federal powers on this and other matters.