Bill to Extend Mass Surveillance Program Fails House Vote

by | Apr 10, 2024

Bill to Extend Mass Surveillance Program Fails House Vote

by | Apr 10, 2024

congressman matt gaetz during cpac covention in maryland.

A group of 19 House Republicans bucked GOP leadership and voted with Democrats against a bill that would extend Section 702, the law that allows for mass surveillance and the collection of Americans’ data. 

On Wednesday, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) brought the legislation up for a procedural vote, and it failed 193-228. The Republican opposition was made up of a group of freedom-oriented Representatives led by Matt Gaetz (R-FL). 

“The reauthorization lacks essential reforms to protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, such as requiring the FBI to obtain a warrant before searching Americans’ data and a prohibition on the government purchasing Americans’ data from third-party data brokers,” the Flordia congressman said in a statement. “FISA authorities have been used to violate the law more than 278,000 times by the national security state, and there has yet to be any consequences for this illegal activity by our government.”

Gaetz criticized Johnson for letting a bill to renew Section 702 come to the floor without sufficient reforms. “If Speaker Johnson is unwilling to fix FISA Section 702, we are left wondering what he is indeed willing to fix. Now, the very authorities that we saw weaponized against President Trump and the American people are poised to get enhancements under this reauthorization, rather than any of the reforms that are so desperately needed,” he explained.  

In the leadup to the 2016 election, the FBI launched an investigation into Donald Trump’s campaign and alleged ties to the Russian government. That probe was based on opposition research paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and ultimately failed to prove any ties between Trump and the Kremlin. 

Trump announced his opposition to the bill prior to the vote on Truth Social, saying, “KILL FISA, IT WAS ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME, AND MANY OTHERS. THEY SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN!!!” While Trump now says he opposes Section 702, he signed extensions to the program when he was in the White House.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 has allowed the US government to warrantlessly sweep up the information of millions of Americans for decades. It is set to expire on April 19

However, even if Congress fails to act before April 19, the Wall Street Journal reports that surveillance will continue for at least a year. 702 spying “could potentially continue for another year due to how and when the secretive court that oversees the program grants annual approval for the categories of intelligence collection it allows.” WSJ adds, “Such a continuation of the program would almost certainly be met with legal challenges, a complexity that Biden administration officials have said they want to avoid.”

About Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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