The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation last week that will prevent future “spying” abuses that were seen and exposed during the Trump-Russia investigation.
But with Republicans and Democrats coming together to pass a slew of measures to provide relief for Americans and businesses dealing with the coronavirus, the FISA reform bill is about to take a backseat.
The GOP-controlled Senate voted this week to extend the lapsed intelligence programs for 77 days.
The move came as a way to give lawmakers more time to consider the bill and give members more time to debate on the House’s revisions.
Specifically, there is bipartisan push-back to FISA, which senators on both sides of the aisle argue violates people’s privacy rights.
“The passage of a bill by voice vote that would revive and extend surveillance powers — including those under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — until the end of May gives lawmakers breathing room to debate surveillance and privacy issues after the immediate threat of the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided,” Roll Call reported.
“The Senate limited the extended discussion to three amendments, including the lone wolf program, roving wiretaps and a section allowing intelligence agencies to collect suspect’s phone records. The extension still needs to be passed through the House, which is out of town until next week,” the report added.
Last week, the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act passed by a vote of 278-136 in the House and had bipartisan support from lawmakers who wanted improvements to protect Americans’ privacy and safeguard against surveillance abuses.
Attorney General Bill Barr said he supported the passage of the FISA bill, saying it “will protect against abuse and misuse in the future.”
The bill includes enhanced congressional oversight of the FISA process, penalties for those who abuse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court process for political purposes, and the requirement to have transcripts of court proceedings.
The new legislation will also require the attorney general to personally sign off on surveilling government officials.
The DOJ’s report from the inspector general released last year provided a horrifying glimpse into how the FBI was able to spy on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
Below are some high-points of what Horowitz found:
- There was extreme bias against then-candidate Trump.
- FBI officials deliberately doctored evidence they presented to the nation’s top spy court in order to gain authority to spy on a key Trump affiliate.
- The FBI and the Justice Department’s review committee failed to comply with attorney general guidelines requiring timely validation.
- Investigators uncovered issues with FBI employees who conducted validation reviews, noting they did not “review the full scope” of a long-term source’s work for the FBI.
- The inspector general found “at least 17 significant errors or omissions” concerning FBI efforts to obtain secret FISA warrants against Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Barr has appointed special prosecutor John H. Durham to investigate the origins of the Russia probe, and he reportedly shifted his investigation into a criminal inquiry.
It certainly appears that Barr and Durham have already found evidence of criminal wrongdoing regarding the FBI’s surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016.