Politics

Johnson tees off latest surveillance fight with a warning

Speaker Mike Johnson is kicking off a third round of debate over a controversial surveillance power with a warning to his conference: If they fail, they could be jammed by the Senate.

Johnson’s letter to his colleagues comes as the House is expected to vote next week on legislation reauthorizing and making changes to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The spy power targets foreigners outside of the United States, but has come under scrutiny for its ability to sweep in Americans.

It remains far from clear if the House will be able to pass the bill, or even get it to the floor. Republicans’ infighting, and their single-digit margin, has already forced Johnson to punt twice, and there’s lingering skepticism this go-round will end differently. Congress has until April 19 to reauthorize the spy authority.

Johnson, in his letter, warned that if the House fails for a third time to pass a bill, the Senate will send it a so-called “clean” extension of the spy power with no changes, potentially boxing the House into accepting that or letting the authority lapse.

“If our bill fails, we will be faced with an impossible choice and can expect the Senate to jam us with a clean extension that includes no reforms at all. That is clearly an unacceptable option,” Johnson wrote in the letter.

The bill rolled out by House Republicans on Friday largely resembles a proposal from February that would extend the program, while also making changes aimed at bolstering oversight and training and the program’s transparency.

But Friday’s bill includes a notable change from the February bill — it appears to remove a section on reports to Congress related to commercially available data. The language was added into the bill in February by leadership so that a bipartisan proposal restricting data brokers from selling consumer information to law enforcement could get a vote as part of the House’s debate on Section 702, despite being unrelated to the authority. The move in February infuriated Intelligence Committee Republicans and led to them threatening to tank the bill. Johnson instead punted for a second time.

Johnson doesn’t address the change in his Friday letter — though he noted that he’ll hold a series of meetings with his members next week about the bill. A coalition of Judiciary Committee Republicans and Freedom Caucus members have made getting a vote on the data broker amendment one of their red lines.

They didn’t immediately weigh in Friday after the legislation was rolled out. Several aides involved in the debate indicated they were in a wait-and-see mode, while others warned that the amendment’s absence could imperil Johnson’s ability to bring a bill to the floor for a third time. In a potential fig leaf, House Republican leadership announced on Friday night that they could take up the proposal separately as a standalone bill next week.

That won’t be the only fight as Johnson tries to bring a bill to the floor next week.

A coalition of privacy hawks and the intelligence community and its allies are gearing up for a contentious fight over a proposal to require a warrant before searching data collected under Section 702 for information related to Americans. The provision is not in the bill released on Friday but is expected to get a vote as part of the debate.

Including a warrant requirement for searches related to Americans has been a long-sought goal for a bipartisan coalition that spans progressive, privacy-minded lawmakers and libertarian-leaning Republicans. They’ve seen their ranks grow in recent years after a series of high-profile missteps by the FBI, which also led to a series of internal reforms within the bureau.

But the administration, and intelligence community allies on Capitol Hill, are warning that requiring a warrant would effectively neuter Section 702. Intelligence community officials are scheduled to brief the House on Wednesday, where they will likely make that point behind closed doors as well.

A senior administration official said they were “optimistic” that they could be able to defeat a warrant requirement amendment. (Senior administration officials declined to say during a call with reporters on Friday if the White House would threaten to veto the bill if a warrant requirement is added, noting it’s up to President Joe Biden.)

“It will be a real detriment to the American people and national security,” a senior administration official said.

The warrant requirement proposal is getting a vote as part of a deal with leadership ensuring that members of both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee, who are on opposite sides of the debate, would get amendment votes. And outside groups are keeping a close eye on what amendments the two panels put forward as part of Tuesday’s meeting in the Rules Committee to tee up the floor debate.

The American Immigration Council sent a memo to congressional Democrats urging them to vote against an amendment, if it is offered by Intelligence Committee members, that would allow foreigners who are applying for a visa, immigration or asylum to be vetted under Section 702.

“Expanding the warrantless surveillance of immigrants traveling to the United States is unnecessary and will only further exacerbate visa processing backlogs,” the immigration advocacy group wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.

Speaker Mike Johnson is kicking off a third round of debate over a controversial surveillance power with a warning to his conference: If they fail, they could be jammed by the Senate.
Johnson’s letter to his colleagues comes as the House is expected to vote next week on legislation reauthorizing and making changes to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The spy power targets foreigners outside of the United States, but has come under scrutiny for its ability to sweep in Americans.
It remains far from clear if the House will be able to pass the bill, or even get it to the floor. Republicans’ infighting, and their single-digit margin, has already forced Johnson to punt twice, and there’s lingering skepticism this go-round will end differently. Congress has until April 19 to reauthorize the spy authority.
Johnson, in his letter, warned that if the House fails for a third time to pass a bill, the Senate will send it a so-called “clean” extension of the spy power with no changes, potentially boxing the House into accepting that or letting the authority lapse.
“If our bill fails, we will be faced with an impossible choice and can expect the Senate to jam us with a clean extension that includes no reforms at all. That is clearly an unacceptable option,” Johnson wrote in the letter.
The bill rolled out by House Republicans on Friday largely resembles a proposal from February that would extend the program, while also making changes aimed at bolstering oversight and training and the program’s transparency.
But Friday’s bill includes a notable change from the February bill — it appears to remove a section on reports to Congress related to commercially available data. The language was added into the bill in February by leadership so that a bipartisan proposal restricting data brokers from selling consumer information to law enforcement could get a vote as part of the House’s debate on Section 702, despite being unrelated to the authority. The move in February infuriated Intelligence Committee Republicans and led to them threatening to tank the bill. Johnson instead punted for a second time.
Johnson doesn’t address the change in his Friday letter — though he noted that he’ll hold a series of meetings with his members next week about the bill. A coalition of Judiciary Committee Republicans and Freedom Caucus members have made getting a vote on the data broker amendment one of their red lines.
They didn’t immediately weigh in Friday after the legislation was rolled out. Several aides involved in the debate indicated they were in a wait-and-see mode, while others warned that the amendment’s absence could imperil Johnson’s ability to bring a bill to the floor for a third time. In a potential fig leaf, House Republican leadership announced on Friday night that they could take up the proposal separately as a standalone bill next week.
That won’t be the only fight as Johnson tries to bring a bill to the floor next week.
A coalition of privacy hawks and the intelligence community and its allies are gearing up for a contentious fight over a proposal to require a warrant before searching data collected under Section 702 for information related to Americans. The provision is not in the bill released on Friday but is expected to get a vote as part of the debate.
Including a warrant requirement for searches related to Americans has been a long-sought goal for a bipartisan coalition that spans progressive, privacy-minded lawmakers and libertarian-leaning Republicans. They’ve seen their ranks grow in recent years after a series of high-profile missteps by the FBI, which also led to a series of internal reforms within the bureau.
But the administration, and intelligence community allies on Capitol Hill, are warning that requiring a warrant would effectively neuter Section 702. Intelligence community officials are scheduled to brief the House on Wednesday, where they will likely make that point behind closed doors as well.
A senior administration official said they were “optimistic” that they could be able to defeat a warrant requirement amendment. (Senior administration officials declined to say during a call with reporters on Friday if the White House would threaten to veto the bill if a warrant requirement is added, noting it’s up to President Joe Biden.)
“It will be a real detriment to the American people and national security,” a senior administration official said.
The warrant requirement proposal is getting a vote as part of a deal with leadership ensuring that members of both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee, who are on opposite sides of the debate, would get amendment votes. And outside groups are keeping a close eye on what amendments the two panels put forward as part of Tuesday’s meeting in the Rules Committee to tee up the floor debate.
The American Immigration Council sent a memo to congressional Democrats urging them to vote against an amendment, if it is offered by Intelligence Committee members, that would allow foreigners who are applying for a visa, immigration or asylum to be vetted under Section 702.
“Expanding the warrantless surveillance of immigrants traveling to the United States is unnecessary and will only further exacerbate visa processing backlogs,” the immigration advocacy group wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.  

Related Posts

1 of 1,736

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *