Politico reports that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has released detailed talking points outlining that panel’s draft of its bill for Section 702 reauthorization, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authority that expires at the end of this year.
“The bill described by the House Intelligence Committee, while offering a few useful reforms, is a pallid imitation of the kind of comprehensive reform that is needed,” said Gene Schaerr, PPSA general counsel. Sen. Mike Lee put it even more bluntly, noting that “these supposed ‘reforms’ are mere window dressing and would even expand government surveillance programs.”
“The House Intelligence bill only pays lip service to a warrant requirement,” Schaerr said, “applying it to the limited set of ‘evidence of a crime’ surveillance queries, while allowing the administration to continue large-scale surveillance of Americans under its utterly elastic standard of ‘foreign intelligence purposes.' Furthermore, the proposal does nothing to restrict the government’s purchasing of Americans’ most sensitive and personal data or to rein in the administration’s surveillance under executive orders.’”
Schaerr said the House Intelligence bill is a political marker from a committee known for its closeness to the intelligence community. It is not widely expected to become the tentpole for Section 702 reauthorization.
“Congress should look instead to a bill now being drafted by the House Judiciary Committee,” Schaerr said. “Chairman Jim Jordan and his colleagues are hard at work at crafting legislation that will offer deeper and more substantive reforms, while respecting the needs of national security.”
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), who has been participating in discussions between the two committees, told Politico, “The one thing that everybody agrees on is not only do you have to take care of 702, you have to take care of the broader stuff.”
“We look forward to a bill from the Judiciary Committee that does, indeed, take care of the broader stuff – including a stronger warrant requirement, closing the data broker loophole, and the Executive Order loophole,” Schaerr said.
Schaerr also pointed to the recently introduced Government Surveillance Reform Act (GSRA) as an example of what comprehensive reform of Section 702 could look like. Under the GSRA, warrants would be required to glean communications, geolocation histories, and browsing and search data – whether from Section 702 or from data purchased by federal agencies from data brokers. The GSRA effectively ends the FBI’s practice of using the “backdoor search loophole” that enables warrantless searches for specific American communications within the massive Section 702 database. And it places legal guardrails on the Administration’s use of Executive Order 12333 to surveil Americans.
“Unlike the House Judiciary Committee and the GSRA reform efforts, the House Intelligence Committee’s proposal is deeply inadequate and will surely not satisfy the vast majority of Members in the House and Senate who want comprehensive, substantive reforms to the entire surveillance state, not just to FISA and Section 702,” Schaerr said.