Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced a resolution on July 11 requesting that surveillance powers granted to federal agencies be allowed to expire at the end of 2023. The powers under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allow law enforcement to spy on American citizens and have been abused numerous times, Gaetz claims.
“The blatant misuse of warrantless surveillance powers targeting Americans’ communications should not be accepted or reauthorized. We must uphold national security without sacrificing the constitutional rights of our fellow Americans,” the Congressman said.
On his website, the Floridian Rep. says the legislation, enacted in 2007, was used by federal authorities to surveil Black Lives Matter activists, as well as those who marched through American cities following the death of George Floyd in 2020. It was also utilized to spy on those present in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021.
The Congressman cites the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruling in May that found FISA was improperly utilized by the FBI on 278,000 occasions. FISA allows law enforcement agencies to search the communications of foreign nationals, including communications with American citizens, without a warrant. The court however found that such searches were improperly undertaken because there was “no reasonable basis to expect they would return foreign intelligence or evidence of crime.”
In February, the Biden administration urged Congress to renew the legislation at the end of the year. In a letter from Attorney General Merrick Garland and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Congressional leaders were told that Section 702 is vital in protecting American lives and ensuring national security. It said the law has prevented components of weapons of mass destruction from reaching hostile foreign entities, identified ransomware attacks, disrupted spy recruitment among foreign adversaries, and prevented terrorist atrocities at home and abroad.
Gaetz argues that freedom should not be compromised in the name of security. GOP Reps. Eli Crane, Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Thomas Massie, and Matt Rosendale support the resolution.