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Congress Cannot Let FISA Section 702 Expire

Our country’s safety is at stake. Congress must reauthorize a reformed version of FISA.

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The US flag flies above a sign marking the US Department of Justice headquarters on January 20, 2024, in Washington, DC. (Photo by J. David Ake/Getty Images)
The US flag flies above a sign marking the US Department of Justice headquarters on January 20, 2024, in Washington, DC. (Photo by J. David Ake/Getty Images)

The FBI is in serious need of reform.

Without corroboration, the FBI used the Steele dossier, which was paid for by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, as the basis to launch its Crossfire Hurricane investigation into allegations of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia.

As the world would eventually learn, the FBI built a false narrative to justify their illegal actions by withholding key information from the judges who approved and renewed the bureau’s application to monitor Donald Trump.

We now know definitively, as many suspected at the time, that there were no credible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

This week, Congress has the chance to pass the single-largest overhaul to the FBI in nearly 20 years.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which monitors foreign nationals overseas, is set to expire on April 19. This critical national security tool has allowed the United States to counter our adversaries like China and Russia and thwarted numerous terrorist attacks from ISIS and al Qaeda.

Under the leadership of Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, the House of Representatives has spent over a year crafting reforms to FISA that will prevent potential future abuses or inappropriate actions from the Intelligence Community while maintaining Section 702’s ability to monitor foreign terrorists and spies overseas.

This legislation directly addresses FISA abuses by reducing the number of FBI personnel who can authorize a U.S. person query by more than 90%. Furthermore, it statutorily ties FBI leadership’s querying compliance directly to their compensation and assesses escalating penalties for an FBI agent’s subsequent abuses.

To prevent future abuse, the committee’s reforms would prohibit using political opposition research and media reports to secure a FISA order, as well as create five enhanced criminal penalties for those who violate FISA, leak FISA applications, or lie to the FISA Court. Finally, these reforms would open up the FISA Court by requiring proceedings to be transcribed and made available to congressional oversight while assigning a court-appointed counsel to scrutinize U.S. person surveillance applications.

The continuation of FISA, bolstered by essential reforms to further protect American civil liberties from cases of misuse and exploitation, is pivotal in securing our country against existing and emerging threats while upholding the core principles of our democracy.

The world has grown more dangerous, and our adversaries more emboldened. On President Biden’s watch, Russia has launched the most violent ground war in Europe since the 1940s; China has rapidly proliferated its nuclear weapons capabilities; Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban; and innocent Israeli men, women, and children have been slaughtered by Hamas, an Iranian proxy and designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. 

Make no mistake: Rogue nation-states and terror organizations want to harm Americans, destroy our values, and actively plan for death and destruction upon our homeland. The number of threats has grown to reflect the proliferation of more sophisticated weapons and the desire to inflict maximum damage.

Our adversaries – both known and unidentified – regularly probe our government systems for weaknesses, such as our porous land borders and lax cyber defenses.

 The safety of our country is at stake, and failing to act is not an option. Congress must reauthorize a reformed version of FISA, including Section 702. It will save lives and continue to deal a major blow to those who wish to do America grave harm.

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