Trump Helps Defeat Controversial Spying Law, Handing Speaker Mike Johnson a Big Loss

Trump Helps Defeat Controversial Spying Law, Handing Speaker Mike Johnson a Big Loss

One of the federal government’s more controversial investigative tools seems to be on its last legs and may be phased out of legality.

Since the country sustained its worst terror attack on that terrible day of Sept. 11, 2001, the government instituted a suite of new powers to investigate possible threats to national security. One of those much-abused tools is known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

That measure allows U.S. intelligence agencies to go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in secret to obtain permission to conduct warrantless surveillance on those who “might” be a threat without formal charges being leveled against the targets and without the knowledge of those being surveiled.

As the National Security Agency explains on its website, FISA “regulates certain types of foreign intelligence collection including certain collection that occurs with compelled assistance from U.S. telecommunications companies.”

The measure is now up for re-authorization, but that renewal now seems to be under threat of failing.

It failed to pass a key procedural vote on Wednesday. According to The New York Times, Republican opponents had “bundled” the measure to open debate on renewing Section 702 with a resolution blasting the Biden administration’s policies on the southern border.

That basically forced Democrats to vote against the Section 702 as well. The procedural vote was 228 opposed to opening debate to 193 in favor. Nineteen Republicans joined with Democrats in the holding action, according to CNN.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has backed a bill to renew Section 702, but the success of that renewal is now looking doubtful.

Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Johnson spoke in favor of the bill, according to CNN. On Friday, the Speaker said, “FISA and Section 702 have been essential to intercepting communications of dangerous foreign actors overseas, understanding the threats against our country, countering our adversaries, and saving countless American lives. Our responsibility now is simple: Maintain the tool but strictly prohibit future abuses.”

Johnson insisted that the bill contains needed reforms to the spying tool, reforms “that will establish new procedures to rein in the FBI, increase accountability at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), impose penalties for wrongdoing, and institute unprecedented transparency across the FISA process so we no longer have to wait years to uncover potential abuses.”

Still, one powerful voice that has spoken out against the renewal of Section 702 belongs to former President Donald Trump, who has been one of those un-indicted targets of a FISA investigation.

On Wednesday, the former president jumped to his Truth Social account to demand an end to Section 702, describing how it was abused to surveil him.

“KILL FISA, IT WAS ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME, AND MANY OTHERS. THEY SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN!!!” he wrote in all caps.

In the aftermath of Trump’s Truth Social message, a vote in the House of Representatives served as a defeat for Speaker Johnson’s quest to re-authorize the spy tool.

Indeed, conservative North Carolina Republican Rep. Dan Bishop blasted Johnson for his support of the bill.

“Unfortunately, I think the speaker is coming forward, reversing his personal position 180 degrees and weighing in on the intel side. He’s, unfortunately, I think, surrendered on that notion of neutrality,” Bishop told the media on Wednesday, according to Fox.

Ultimately, Johnson called for a House Republican Conference meeting for Wednesday afternoon to “regroup” on the bill and to consider more reforms that might placate those who voted against the bill, Breitbart News reported.

The reauthorization of FISA is not yet dead as Johnson intends to resubmit the bill again before the April 19 deadline. But this week’s vote put up a serious roadblock to its success.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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