Exclusive — Sen. Mike Lee: ‘No Chance in Hell’ Congress Reauthorizes Spy Powers Without Major Fight

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview that there is “no chance in hell” that Congress will reauthorize the “crown jewel” of America’s intelligence agencies without a major fight from progressive lawmakers and conservatives who want reform. the program.

Lee spoke to Breitbart News that Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a law the federal government believes allows intelligence agencies to collect the communications of targeted aliens, will expire at the end of December unless Congress reauthorizes the controversial program. Essentially, the NSA can order email services like Google’s Gmail to deliver copies of messages or network operators like AT&T or Verizon to intercept and deliver copies of phone calls, texts, and Internet communications to or from a foreign target. This could also lead to the collection of accidental large amounts of US citizens’ information, which civil liberties advocates often say amounts to unwarranted surveillance of Americans.

The government stores the initial large set of data it collects under Section 702 in a database that intelligence agencies can query using Americans’ names, Social Security numbers, passport numbers, phone numbers, email addresses, and other personal information.

The looming deadline leaves an opportunity for lawmakers who are often highly critical of Section 702 to fight to overhaul the controversial program.

“As far as I’m concerned, there’s no chance in hell we’re going to reauthorize FISA without major reforms, at least not a major fight on my part and on the part of many of my colleagues from both parties,” he told me. Breitbart News.

Lee has been a leading advocate for FISA reform and has come up with compromises that nearly led to a major reform of FISA.

In 2020, Lee came to an agreement with the then Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) who led the Senate to adopt the motion known as the Lee Leahy Amendment. According to a press release, the legislation He was:

… strengthening third party oversight of the FISA process. Specifically, it requires FISA court judges to appoint a Korean amicus (a neutral third-party observer) to any case involving a “sensitive investigative matter” so long as the FISA court has not determined that it is not suitable.

The amendment would also enable the friend to raise a case with the court at any time and give both the friend and the FISA court access to all documents and information related to the surveillance request.

The bill with the Lee Leahy Amendment, or American Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020, is finally up He died In the House of Representatives after the House disagreed with the Senate’s amendments to the bill and tried to move to convene a conference on the bill.

Progressive Democrats such as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (R-Washington) as well as conservatives including Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) and Lee have called for reform.

Routine audit conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for Section 702 use is found that FBI agents often had political overtones to their search queries in the FISA database. This includes “names of a local political party” to see if it has links to foreign intelligence. Reportedly, the Ministry of Justice claimed that the FBI personnel “misunderstood” the search procedures and that they were “subsequently reminded how to properly apply the query rules”.

Lee said that although the federal government has claimed that it has “internal procedures” to prevent abuse, there should be little resistance to codifying these internal procedures to prevent abuse by legislation. The governor in Utah criticized the “flagrant non-compliance” by federal agents.

“It’s not a question of if, but when, how often and where it’s going to be abused,” he explained. Strict on the inside to ensure that it cannot be abused.”

Lee asked rhetorically, “If your actions really prevent any such abuse, and if what you propose to me is the functional equivalent of a word requirement, why do you oppose legislation that you have introduced over the years in various forms? Why do you resist efforts to include such a requirement in law? “

He joked, “That’s, you know, those aren’t the bots you’re looking at.”

Although many Americans were incidentally monitored through Section 702, a federal government review revealed that an unnamed congressman was monitored without any “limitations.” Rep. Darren LaHood (R-Illinois), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said during a hearing Thursday that, after reviewing classified information about the surveillance of the unnamed congressman, he concluded he was the deputy under surveillance. Lahoud He said During the hearing:

I think the report’s characterization of this FBI analyst’s work as a mere misunderstanding of inquiry procedures is indicative of the culture the FBI expects and tolerates. It is also indicative of a continuing failure to appreciate how the abuse of that power is seen on Capitol Hill. And I want to point out that the FBI’s inappropriate query of an elected member of Congress is an outrage and a violation that not only weakens confidence in the FISA, but is seen as a threat to the separation of powers.

“I have had the opportunity to review the confidential summary of this breach, and it is in my opinion that the congressman who has been erroneously questioned several times in his name only is in fact me. Now, this reckless abuse of this crucial tool by the FBI is deplorable,” he revealed.


Lee said of reports that the unnamed lawmaker at the time had been subjected to surveillance, “If the FBI can’t comply with even the really low bar demanded by the FISA court, I think that clears all the suspicion. I didn’t have any.” Doubt we needed Congress to step in, we needed to change it.”

Although Lee cautioned that congressional leaders could still slip a blanket FISA authorization into a must-have spending bill, he remains very optimistic that skeptical state lawmakers can pass reform of the Intelligence Surveillance Act. Foreign (FISA).

“Assuming we have the opportunity to look at this on its own, I think it’s very, very likely that we’ll get this done. So I think we need to keep the pressure going, to make sure we can discuss, discuss this thing on its own merits rather than letting it slide into a place.” What,” he told me.

Sean Moran is a policy reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @employee.

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