FIRST ON FOX: FBI Director Chris Wray deflected when pressed before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday regarding a recent federal court ruling detailing the bureau’s alleged suppression of conservative free speech. The group is expected to reconvene on Friday morning to further discuss whether to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance will continue the hearing today at 9:15 a.m. ET.
In Friday’s continuation ‘Fixing FISA, Part II,’ will examine the expansion of warrantless surveillance of Americans, the FBI’s abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and its failure to implement meaningful reforms. A group of House Republicans is urging Congress not to renew the FISA when it expires at the end of this year, a move those lawmakers say would curb the government’s ability to spy on U.S. citizens.
‘I think most folks are increasingly concerned about centralized power with our national security apparatus, given how political they’ve become,’ Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who will introduce a resolution Tuesday calling for an end to FISA, told Fox News Digital.
‘I take great lengths in my legislation to point out that it’s both left-wing groups like BLM, and it’s also folks who were at the Capitol on January 6, who have seen their rights unfairly violated by FISA, and I’m equally aggrieved by both,’ Rep. Gaetz said.
Section 702 of FISA allows surveillance of non-U.S. citizens overseas, and when U.S. citizens are flagged in these investigations, the FBI takes over and can run a query on them for possible security issues.
But the FBI admitted in May that it improperly used warrantless search procedures on Americans more than 278,000 times in 2021, including Jan. 6 protesters and George Floyd demonstrators. The FBI has said it has taken steps to ensure this ‘unacceptable’ surveillance does not continue, but Gaetz and his supporters say the best move is to eliminate FISA altogether.
Congress will have to consider whether and how to extend FISA sometime this year, before it expires at the end of December.
Gaetz’s resolution will call on his colleagues not to renew the law. His co-sponsors include Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Paul Gosar and Eli Crane of Arizona, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Matt Rosendale of Montana.
FISA was passed in 1978 in the wake of the Watergate scandal and allowed the government to monitor Americans believed to be communicating with foreign agents. Its scope was expanded shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks via the Patriot Act, and has been renewed and lightly revised by Congress several times since.
‘It was reauthorized with some very insignificant reforms. Previously, people like Liz Cheney effectively watered down some of the strong warrant requirements that a lot of civil libertarians in Congress, myself included, had fought for,’ Gaetz said.
‘Since that time, and during this period of authorization, we’ve seen more than a million illegal FISA searches. We’ve seen creepy behavior like FBI officials searching information on their exes. And we’ve seen a total lack of oversight from the court,’ he said.
For years, FISA has generated criticism from both hardline Republicans and progressives on the left. While Gaetz’s new resolution only has GOP names attached, he stressed that fear of government overreach was bipartisan.
‘I have talked to a number of progressives in the past. We’ve been able to work with civil libertarian-minded progressives like Ro Khanna and Jerry Nadler, Zoe Lofgren,’ Gaetz said.
‘I’m hoping that cleaning out these abuses won’t just be a call to the political right, but that folks on the left will see the danger in this type of abuse of power,’ Gaetz added.
FISA was a big topic in Wednesday’s House hearing with FBI Director Christopher Wray, who has fielded fierce Republican criticism as a figurehead in what they say is an increasingly politicized Justice Department. The administration has repeatedly insisted that the department is apolitical.
The hearing is expected to continue on Friday, July 14 at 9:15 a.m.