The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday announced its working group on reforming what is referred to as the “crown jewel” of the US intelligence community.
Mike Turner, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said they have picked Republicans and Democrats who will task with overhauling Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which expires at the end of December.
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. US intelligence agencies’ collection of foreign communications may also collect large amounts of US citizens’ information, which civil liberties advocates often say amounts to unwarranted surveillance of Americans.
In a statement Wednesday, Turner said:
Reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is a top legislative priority for the House Intelligence Committee. Unfortunately, there have been massive and egregious violations of Section 702 that have eroded the trust of the American people, putting FISA’s reauthorization at risk. I believe that reauthorizing Section 702 is necessary to ensure that the intelligence community retains its ability to collect invaluable foreign intelligence to stay one step ahead of our adversaries, but corrections must be made to protect the constitutional rights of American citizens. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Working Group, led by Representative Darren LaHood, is committed to finding bipartisan solutions to reform the intelligence community’s foreign surveillance tools.
The working group members are:
- Representative Darine Lahoud (Republic – El)
- Representative Chris Stewart (R-Utah)
- Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania)
- Representative Andre Carson (Democrat)
- Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX)
- Representative Jason Crowe (D-CO)
Taxonomic member Jim Himes (D-CT) said in a statement Wednesday:
FISA 702 is a powerful tool that the intelligence community uses every day to prevent terrorist attacks, disrupt cyberattacks, and gain unique intelligence insights on foreign targets. To allow this crucial authority to fall would be gross negligence and endanger our national security. At the same time, it is our duty as representatives to make sure that these authorities do not violate Americans’ constitutionally protected rights and to consider further reforms to protect those rights. The six members of this working group outlined the thoughtful, pragmatic, and partisan approach that will be necessary to address one of the most important issues facing this conference.
Lahoud serves as an important figure in the FISA reform dialogue, revealing during a hearing in March that he was being watched by the FBI:
I think the report’s characterization of this FBI analyst’s work as simply a misunderstanding of inquiry procedures indicates 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 make it clear that the FBI’s inappropriate inquiry into 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 occasion 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.”
Fitzpatrick, a moderate Republican and co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solving Group, said in a written statement Wednesday that as a former FBI agent, he understands how “important” FISA is to intelligence agencies.
“As a former FBI agent, I know how important re-authorization under FISA is to our intelligence community’s ability to gather intelligence and to protect our national security.” Fitzpatrick explained. “I am grateful to Board Chairman Turner and Ratings member Himes, and I look forward to working toward bipartisan solutions to oversight issues with my colleagues on this working group.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a staunch advocate for civil liberties, told Breitbart News in an interview in early March that there was “no chance in hell” that Congress would reauthorize Section 702 without a major fight for reform on one side. Progressive and conservative lawmakers. .
Sean Moran is a policy reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @employee.
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