Top FISA experts alarmed that FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act “vastly widen[s]” controversial surveillance law. Rare House Floor “Queen-of-the-Hill” showdown expected in battle between the Judiciary Committee’s bill and the Intelligence Committee’s FISA expansion bill, both released last week.
Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees are expected to bring competing FISA reauthorization language to the House Floor as soon as tomorrow under a rare “Queen-of-the-Hill” process.
In the words of top FISA expert and one of five handpicked FISA Court Amici, Marc Zwillinger, the Intelligence Committee’s legislation “greatly expand[s]” the number of businesses and their employees who could be compelled to spy on their customers and provide warrantless access to their communications systems pursuant to this extremely controversial FISA provision, Section 702.
According to the Amicus, it threatens to turn “data centers, colocation providers, business landlords, shared workspaces, or even hotels” into conduits for gag-ordered warrantless surveillance under Section 702, potentially even reaching “third part[ies] involved in providing equipment, storage, or even cleaning services to such entities.”
Demand Progress Policy Director Sean Vitka and FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon urged Congress to oppose HPSCI’s surveillance expansion, the FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act (H.R.6611), and instead support HJC’s Protect Liberty Act and End Warrantless Surveillance Act (H.R.6570), which has broad, bipartisan support, including from 50+ organizations:
“The FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act is a Trojan Horse for PATRIOT Act 2.0. Chairman Turner and Ranking Member Himes should be ashamed of themselves for either deliberately or incompetently writing legislation that would dramatically expand warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of FISA, the massive spying power that has been abused on a ‘persistent and widespread‘ basis. This is staggering overreach that is absolutely at odds with the millions of Americans crying out for Congress to protect their privacy.
The House Intelligence Committee’s bill is a threat to literally every American as well as every American business. We’re sounding the alarm on this dangerous legislation: it must not pass.”
The HPSCI bill is crafted not to address virtually all the known abuses of Section 702, including wrongful searches for communications of members of Congress, “tens of thousands” relating to “civil unrest,” protestors, January 6 suspects, members of Congress, 19,000 Congressional donors, a local political party, and more.
The HJC bill, the Protect Liberty Act (H.R.6570), has broad, bipartisan support and is co-sponsored by more than 20 members of the House, including Representatives Biggs, Nadler, Jordan, Lofgren, Davidson, Jayapal, McClintock, and Jacobs. This bill would reauthorize Section 702 while enacting meaningful privacy protections for Americans, including by requiring a warrant for searches of communications, which the House of Representatives has previously passed twice.
For additional context, here are examples of the recent, unlawful abuse of Section 702:
- “[T]ens of thousands” of baseless searches “related to civil unrest” in a one-year period
- Searches for individuals an NSA analyst had met on an online dating site, and a prospective tenant.”
- Searches for a state court judge who reported civil rights violations to the FBI.
- Searches for places of worship that were intentionally hidden from oversight.
- Searches for a member of HPSCI and a US Senator.
- A “batch” search for 19,000 Congressional donors.
- “Batch” searches that included current and former federal government officials, journalists, and political commentators.
- Searches for people who came to the FBI to perform repairs.
- Searches for victims who came to the FBI to report crimes.
- Searches for business, religious, and community leaders who applied to participate in the FBI’s “Citizens Academy.”
- Searches for college students participating in a “Collegiate Academy.”
- Searches for family members and colleagues.
- Searches for police officer candidates.
- Searches for an individual employed by a defense attorney.
- Searches for a wrongly accused American academic.
- Searches based on a witness’s report that two men “of Middle Eastern descent” were loading cleaning supplies into a truck.
- Searches for a local political party.
- “Batch” searches for 1600 Americans “who had flown through an airport during a particular date range and were either traveling to or returning from a foreign country”
- 2,000 searches for “the names and dates of birth of individuals who were registered competitors in an athletic event.”
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