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Trump Urges GOP to Vote Down Expanded Domestic Surveillance Powers



President of The United States of America | Trump Urges GOP to Vote Down Expanded Domestic Surveillance Powers | Featured

President Trump is urging House Republicans to vote against pending legislation that would renew domestic surveillance powers that expired two months ago.

On Tuesday, Trump took to Twitter to encourage his GOP allies to reject the surveillance bill. “I hope all Republican House Members vote NO on FISA until such time as our Country is able to determine how and why the greatest political, criminal, and subversive scandal in USA history took place!” Trump’s tweet refers to an ongoing scandal involving extensive FBI surveillance of his campaign. The president believes the Obama Administration improperly used the aforementioned Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act to conduct a controversial investigation into his administration for, what he believes, were purely political reasons.

FISA was originally adopted in the aftermath of 9/11 to help combat terrorism. It gives the FBI and other federal agencies carte blanche to obtain wiretaps and business records in connection with national security investigations. However, the act’s broadly-defined powers raise serious concerns about the potential for abuse and misuse.

Possible Effects

Trump’s intervention could torpedo the bill’s chances of passing. The bill already cleared the Senate, but the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the legislation today. House representatives are considering adding an amendment to the bill that would limit the FBI’s ability to spy on Americans’ internet search records. They want to do so during the course of a national security investigation. If passed, the legislative measure would extend FISA surveillance powers through December 1, 2023.

Trump has been a long-time critic of FISA, and he believes the act was instrumental to the FBI’s efforts to undermine his presidency. To support this stance, the president and his allies frequently reference a Justice Department report that revealed several instances of FBI malfeasance during its application for surveillance of Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.

The Justice Department found that the FBI hid information from a FISA court. This information would’ve undercut an unverified dossier that was at the center of the bureau’s surveillance application. This type of prosecutorial abuse commonly occurs at the lower rungs of the criminal justice system, but it’s alarming to see it deployed against a lawfully-elected president. FISA gives law enforcement extensive powers to pursue these types of shady surveillance cases, and Trump wants to prevent the FBI from using these types of underhanded tactics in the future.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany spoke to the press on Tuesday. There, one reporter asked her about Trump’s take on the pending legislation. “It’s very personal to the president when it comes to FISA,” she said. “This is an important tool in the intelligence community. He knows that. But he also knows that it was used and abused and politicized.

Criticisms Against FISA

Privacy advocates have criticized FISA for years for its overly-broad definitions and lack of oversight. Law enforcement can easily stretch the boundaries of what they can consider ‘national security‘. They do so in order to circumvent the rights of American citizens. The bill gives law enforcement sweeping surveillance powers without requiring significant justification. Under FISA, the FBI can wiretap anyone it suspects is a ‘national security threat’. They can do so even if the suspects have no ties to a foreign terrorist organization. These far-reaching surveillance powers are extremely dangerous in the wrong hands.

Anytime the government requests expanded emergency powers to combat a crisis, it should be a major red flag. FISA originally served as a temporary measure to combat terrorism. However, somehow, it managed to hang around for nearly 20 years. It’s a clear example of how so-called ‘temporary’ emergency powers often become permanent. This is an important lesson to remember, especially today, as governments aggressively push for emergency powers to combat the pandemic.

FISA gives law enforcement a free pass to throw away the Bill of Rights in the pursuit of “national security”. Even if they don’t agree with Trump’s reasoning, elected representatives should reconsider their stance on FISA. This is due to the emergency powers it grants are extremely susceptible to abuse.

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