FILE – In this Sept. 25, 2017, file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Paul is suing his neighbor who admitted to tackling Rand as he mowed his yard. The Bowling Green Daily News reports the Friday, June 22, 2018, complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages from neighbor Rene Boucher for “physical pain and mental suffering” from the November assault. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
The so-called 2015 USA Freedom Act expires Sunday. Among the many atrocities this bill reauthorizes is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The bill was rammed through the House with the assistance of the GOP leadership.
FISA reauthorization passed House 278-136:
Yes: 152 Democrats & 126 Republicans (including Hoyer, Clyburn, McCarthy, Scalise & Cheney)
No: 75 Democrats & 60 Republicans (including Democratic Caucus Chair Jeffries & Freedom Caucus Chair Biggs) & Amash-Ihttps://t.co/VYhBTsm1yl
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) March 11, 2020
Now, it is before the Senate and it has the backing of Mitch McConnell.
“Yesterday, the House of Representatives did come together around a bipartisan agreement to renew some critical national security tools.
“The USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020 will reauthorize key authorities granted to intelligence and national security professionals under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“First and foremost, this means ensuring that the men and women tasked with rooting out espionage and stopping terrorist activity on U.S. soil are equipped with the powers they need to be successful.
“Today, the threats these professionals confront are as serious and diverse as ever. Terrorist groups continue to wish us harm. Major hostile powers like Russia and China remain committed to undermining the integrity of American institutions, from our infrastructure to our elections.
“The targeted powers reauthorized by this legislation are a vital part of efforts to protect American communities.
“That’s a fact. It’s a fact that’s been reaffirmed time and time again by Attorneys General and by the numerous reauthorizations granted by Congress.
“This time is no different. We can’t mistake the safety and security that FISA authorities have helped preserve for evidence that they’re no longer needed.
“I hope that my colleagues who may not choose to vote for this legislation will not deny this body the opportunity to renew these authorities today to prevent any lapse.
“I hope none of our colleagues choose to force these important national security tools to temporarily lapse for the sake of making a political point which will not change the result.
“I hope we can renew these authorities today.
What McConnell is doing here is shameful. It was not a secret that FISA was going to expire. Rather than do the right thing and hold hearings and rewrite the law, he, along with Nancy Pelosi, have stalled until the last minute and are trying to ram it through the Congress using ‘national security’ as a the reason it must pass. If the bill was truly that important, especially given the demonstrated history of abuse of the FISA, it should have had public hearings and a revised bill considered by both House and Senate.
Rand Paul is correct but he doesn’t go far enough. He should block this bill in its entirety unless he gets a firm commitment from McConnell to hold new hearings on, at a minimum, the FISA portions of the bill, no matter how long that takes. All a 45-day extension does is allow an bill that we know is routinely abused by the FBI…and even the UN ambassador under Obama…to continue to operate.
Attorney General Bill Barr has weighed in with a pledge of creating rules to govern how FISA is used to prevent future abuses.
NEW: AG Barr has announced his support for the House's FISA reauthorization deal –> pic.twitter.com/XHuRfluOrP
— Alex Mallin (@alex_mallin) March 11, 2020
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is bullsh** and everyone knows it.
The basic law itself is completely adequate. The problems uncovered by the Department of Justice IG did not happen because of gaps in the law or existing regulations, they happened because officials in Department of Justice and within the FBI broke the law. They manufactured evidence. They misrepresented the quality and source of evidence to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). They used the FISA process to carry out surveillance of a domestic presidential campaign and of the president-elect’s transition team. To make matters worse, this abuse was condoned at the very highest levels of both organizations and no one has been punished for their actions. The FISC has, belatedly, tried to exonerate itself by preventing anyone involved in the Carter Page FISA warrant application from practicing before the FISC. This, by extension, probably prevents them from practicing in any federal court as their FISA ban would have to be reported. While somewhat satisfying, it does nothing to explain or excuse the totally supine abdication of responsibility the FISC has shown. Rather than acting as civil liberties watchdog, the FISC acts as nothing more than a rubberstamp for whatever trash that is shoved in front of it.
Even if we agreed that Barr could make his rules stick, it would still be inadequate. Those rules can be changed again by Barr or by any of his successors. And the entire world knows that breaking the rules, at worst, gets you a stern glare from someone. It can actually lead to a book deal or CNN contributorship if you play your cards right.
Mike Lee is backing Rand Paul’s play,
@realDonaldTrump: Per your concerns, we should delay consideration of expiring FISA provisions for 45 days—reauthorizing for a few weeks to give us time to improve the FISA bill passed by House Democrats. That would give us time to deal with COVID19 and then fix FISA. https://t.co/Pd0Flh2KLf
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) March 12, 2020
and encouraging President to veto the bill if it passes. President Trump has hinted that he just might do that.
Many Republican Senators want me to Veto the FISA Bill until we find out what led to, and happened with, the illegal attempted “coup” of the duly elected President of the United States, and others!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2020
I will say this, my opposition to FISA represents a significant walk back of the position I held when it was expanded with the pass of the USA Patriot Act. At that time I could not imagine the Department of Justice and the FBI ever conspiring to directly influence a presidential election. I could not imagine that a federal judge, knowing that the essential liberties of an American citizen were about to be violated, would spend longer reading a McDonald’s menu than reviewing the underlying evidence. In the Army the view most of us held of Military Police officers was “giving a 19-year-old a badge and a gun and telling them to enforce the law is like giving a 3-year-old a can of gas and book of matches.” I should have realized that admonition applied equally to other law enforcement officers who were entrusted with the unbounded authority to investigate whatever the hell they wished to investigate.
This law is too dangerous to the values of the Republic to be allowed to continue in force. We’ve demonstrated that we do not have men and women within Justice, within the FBI, of sufficient character to be given this authority. Rand Paul is right to block its speedy passage. And President Trump would be a fool to not veto it if it should pass.