Politics

Haines and Trump official set to brief House panel on spy powers

Two intelligence chiefs, one current and one former, are expected to separately brief the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday night on proposed changes to a controversial surveillance law.

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines and former Trump administration DNI John Ratcliffe will join a steady stream of experts appearing before Judiciary members as Congress remains divided on reauthorizing part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The law is one tool used by the intelligence community to track threats, which security experts argue is essential to national security.

Lawmakers have until the end of the year to reauthorize Section 702, a surveillance authority under FISA that is meant to target foreigners abroad but has become highly controversial because of its ability to sweep in Americans’ data.

Both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees are expected to soon unveil separate bills to renew Section 702 with new guardrails and limits. And a bipartisan group — including Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — have already introduced sweeping legislation that would not only overhaul Section 702 but also tie in broader, unrelated adjustments to spy powers, including preventing data brokers from selling consumer information to law enforcement. (The Biden administration immediately came out against the bicameral bill.)

As lawmakers prepare for that debate, both committees have been briefed by former and current intelligence officials, as well as conducted a quiet education effort with their colleagues, many of whom will be voting on surveillance authorization for the first time.

Republicans on the two committees spent months negotiating behind closed doors to try to find a path forward. And while they found agreement in several areas — including new penalties and new reporting and auditing requirements — they are divided over when to require a warrant to search 702-collected data for Americans’ information.

Ratcliffe was among the first to raise concerns about FISA abuse before he joined the Trump administration, while he was a House member on the Judiciary Committee. He joined former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) in being an early voice questioning aspects of the process used to obtain surveillance warrants on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide whose Russian ties served as a basis for the government’s federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

While initial claims of FISA malpractice were batted away by House Democrats, the intelligence community’s inspector general conducted an independent investigation that found “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the government’s application to monitor Page.

While the Page warrant isn’t related to the section of FISA that Congress currently needs to reauthorize, Republicans have used it to make their case that lawmakers should also include changes to the broader surveillance law.

Two intelligence chiefs, one current and one former, are expected to separately brief the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday night on proposed changes to a controversial surveillance law.
Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines and former Trump administration DNI John Ratcliffe will join a steady stream of experts appearing before Judiciary members as Congress remains divided on reauthorizing part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The law is one tool used by the intelligence community to track threats, which security experts argue is essential to national security.
Lawmakers have until the end of the year to reauthorize Section 702, a surveillance authority under FISA that is meant to target foreigners abroad but has become highly controversial because of its ability to sweep in Americans’ data.
Both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees are expected to soon unveil separate bills to renew Section 702 with new guardrails and limits. And a bipartisan group — including Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — have already introduced sweeping legislation that would not only overhaul Section 702 but also tie in broader, unrelated adjustments to spy powers, including preventing data brokers from selling consumer information to law enforcement. (The Biden administration immediately came out against the bicameral bill.)
As lawmakers prepare for that debate, both committees have been briefed by former and current intelligence officials, as well as conducted a quiet education effort with their colleagues, many of whom will be voting on surveillance authorization for the first time.
Republicans on the two committees spent months negotiating behind closed doors to try to find a path forward. And while they found agreement in several areas — including new penalties and new reporting and auditing requirements — they are divided over when to require a warrant to search 702-collected data for Americans’ information.
Ratcliffe was among the first to raise concerns about FISA abuse before he joined the Trump administration, while he was a House member on the Judiciary Committee. He joined former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) in being an early voice questioning aspects of the process used to obtain surveillance warrants on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide whose Russian ties served as a basis for the government’s federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
While initial claims of FISA malpractice were batted away by House Democrats, the intelligence community’s inspector general conducted an independent investigation that found “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the government’s application to monitor Page.
While the Page warrant isn’t related to the section of FISA that Congress currently needs to reauthorize, Republicans have used it to make their case that lawmakers should also include changes to the broader surveillance law.  

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