Republican Senators Criticize FISA Surveillance Program After Bill Passage

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has expressed his discontent with the passing of the ‘horrible bill.’
Republican Senators Criticize FISA Surveillance Program After Bill Passage
The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington on March 24, 2024. (Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly
4/20/2024
Updated:
4/20/2024
0:00

The Senate passed a controversial surveillance bill on April 20, drawing criticism from several Republican lawmakers who argue that it violates Americans’ constitutional privacy protections.

The Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act, which reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for two years, passed in a 60–34 vote that concluded 45 minutes after the 12 a.m. ET deadline.

“We have good news for America’s national security: Senators have reached an agreement that clears the way to approve FISA reauthorization tonight,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

“Allowing FISA to expire would have been dangerous. It’s an important part of our national security toolkit and helps law enforcement stop terrorist attacks, drug trafficking, and violent extremism,” he added.

Several Republican lawmakers have expressed reservations about the bill’s passage due to FISA Section 702 allowing intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance on foreign nationals overseas without warrants.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who voted against the FISA reauthorization bill, took to X (formerly known as Twitter) on April 20 to express his discontent with the passing of the “horrible bill.”

“Tonight the Senate passed the House-passed FISA expansion bill—after rejecting seven different amendments requiring a warrant and otherwise reforming FISA 702,” the senator stated.

“This is a horrible bill. It shows wanton disregard for the rights of Americans. This is not a day to celebrate,” he added.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that he had voted against the legislation because it “did not go far enough in protecting Americans’ privacy rights from intrusions by the federal government.”

“How FISA has been used and abused in the past is extremely troubling. While it performs a critically important role—particularly at a time when President Biden has allowed millions of illegal aliens to pour across our border—we must not sacrifice Americans’ constitutional privacy protections,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said the Department of Justice’s abuses of FISA to spy on Americans are “unacceptable” and go against the protections enshrined in the country’s Fourth Amendment.

“The prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure can’t be taken for granted,” Mr. Cramer stated.

Some Democrat lawmakers also opposed the bill. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a statement that Americans should not have to compromise their liberty for security.

“It is clear from the votes on very popular amendments that senators were unwilling to send this bill back to the House, no matter how common-sense the amendment before them.

“Time after time anti-reformers pledge that their band-aid changes to the law will curb abuses, and yet every time, the public learns about fresh abuses by officials who face little meaningful oversight,” he stated.

The bill was blocked three times in the past five months by House Republicans bucking their party, before passing last week by a 273–147 vote when its duration was shortened from five years to two years.

The bill will now go to President Joe Biden’s desk. Citing the significance of the bill to protecting national security, the White House said that President Biden “will swiftly sign the bill into law.”

Lawmakers took votes on a series of amendments that would strengthen civil liberty protections. But none of these—including an amendment by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to require a warrant to search Americans’ Section 702 data and another by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to prohibit federal law enforcement from purchasing Americans’ data from third-party brokers—were passed by the Senate.
Samantha Flow, Joseph Lord, and Reuters contributed to this report.
Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer covering U.S. and Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.
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