U.S. President Donald J. Trump said on Thursday he would not rubber stamp a renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but would approve a one-month extension for Congress to improve the bill to prevent the kind of abuse against American citizens suffered by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn at the hands of unrestrained alphabet soup agencies of the federal government.
In March President Donald J. Trump told congressional Republican leaders that he will not support a clean reauthorization of surveillance laws without significant reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court system that was abused during the Russia collusion probe, according to a senior White House official.
He tweeted, “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!”
The House on Wednesday passed the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, but the Senate called for improvements to the legislation.
Several amendments were proposed but only one bipartisan improvement ofwas adopted, put forward by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).The senators touted the 77-19 passage of the amendment as a victory for the American people.
In a joint statement, the senators said, “The key to our proposal is to substantially strengthen a program that currently allows FISA judges, in very limited circumstances, to appoint outside legal scholars — called “amici”— to independently analyze FBI surveillance requests that are particularly sensitive…We propose measures that would authorize and actively encourage judges in this secret court to seek independent amicus reviews in all sensitive cases — such as those involving significant First Amendment issues — thereby adding a layer of protection for those who will likely never know they have been targeted for secret surveillance.”
In the Senate, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyman (D-OR) had introduced an amendment that failed by one vote that would have broader power to conduct warrantless searches.
“What happened to General Flynn and President Trump should never be allowed to happen again,” Sen. Paul said.
Paul’s FISA amendment would have still allowed surveillance of non-Americans and foreign enemies abroad, but also required officials to obtain a traditional warrant to spy on Americans, thus ensuring Fourth Amendment protections for American citizens.
“It flies in the face of our Constitution that a secret court can authorize invading an innocent American’s privacy,” Paul said in a statement.
“Recent months have once again made all too clear how such a system leads to abuse. It’s time for Congress to stop paying lip service to reform and pass real safeguards that respect Americans’ rights.”
As the Senate prepared to vote on reauthorization of the Patriot Act, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged the addition of three amendments that would limit the Act’s power, including prohibiting the warrantless collection of data from search and browser histories.