FISA Fumble: Section 702 and the Surveillance State

Yet again, Congress has proved itself to be the enemy of privacy rights in America. A bill reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was called to a vote this week in the House of Representatives, and defenders of the Constitution were quick to sound the alarm bells that it would be used to spy on American citizens.

Section 702 would authorize the government to seize communications from telephone companies, email service providers, and internet companies without a warrant.

With the FBI recently incurring sanctions for nearly 300,000 violations of the act for the unwarranted espionage of citizens in 2020 and 2021, privacy hawks hoped that an amendment requiring warrants would inhibit such abuse by intelligence agencies. 

However, as usual in DC, hopes for respect of Constitutional protections were dashed, with the amendment failing to survive a forced tie (212-212) after Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) cast his vote against it, sending what many are calling “the Patriot Act 3.0” to the Senate intact.  

Champion of liberty and Constitutional defender, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was quick to blast Speaker Johnson as “incredibly wrong” for his controversial crossing of the aisle, claiming that Johnson holding the office of Speaker was no different than a Democrat being in that position: 

“He broke the tie. He voted with the Democrats. Here we have the leader of the Republicans in the House votes with the Democrats against a warrant requirement. We also have Speaker Johnson voting for the spending package once again with a majority of the Democrats… As I see it now, I’m not so sure there’s a difference between Mike Johnson being in charge and the Democrats being in charge.”

Fellow libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) was also swift in his criticism of Johnson’s vote against the amendment:  

“This is how the Constitution dies. By a tie vote, the amendment to require a warrant to spy on Americans goes down in flames. This is a sad day for America. The Speaker doesn’t always vote in the House, but he was the tie breaker today. He voted against warrants.” 

Massie further stated that the decision to vote against the amendment would ultimately lead to the latter’s removal as Speaker of the House: 

“The motion is going to get called, OK? Does anybody doubt that? The motion will get called. And then he’s gonna lose more votes than Kevin McCarthy. And I have told him this in private, like weeks ago,”

Another supporter of the amendment to Section 702, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), made a call for voters to hold their representatives feet to the fire in order for a similar amendment to be drafted in the Senate version of the bill: 

“This is not off of the House floor, so everybody’s got to go home and answer their constituents over the next 72 hours about why they are siding with the intelligence agencies and the deep state and the swamp over the rights and the liberties of the American people,” 

Roy made it clear that the vote against the amendment was an egregious disregard for the Constitutional rights of citizens. He urged that the politicians responsible face repercussions for such blatant indifference: 

“…every single person in this body, no matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, voted against an amendment to protect Americans, to protect them with a warrant, and they’ve got to answer to it.”

One should not expect the Status Quo to change on the hill. Still, every American should thunderously let their federal representatives know that any vote cast in favor of violating their natural rights will live in infamy. 

Call your senator at 202-899-8938 to demand they STOP this bill.

This article was written by Eric Madden, Copywriter & Editor at Young Americans for Liberty

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