A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives is waging a last-minute fight to rein in one of the most controversial surveillance laws. Section 702, as it is known, was passed in 2008 as part an amendment to the notorious Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Ostensibly, this law is intended to allow American intelligence agencies to evade warrant requirements when focused on counter-intelligence operations: tracking and watching foreign spies operating in the United States. In fact, 702 surveillance “inherently and intentionally sweep in Americans’ communications,” as explained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ron Wyden are threatening a filibuster over spying provisions
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is leading the effort in the Senate, joined by other civil libertarians in both parties like Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Together they are threatening to filibuster the year-end continuing resolution, necessary to prevent a government shutdown when Congressional spending authorizations lapse.
It’s an impressive bipartisan coalition that isn’t seen in Washington all that often. Their efforts have the backing of both the ACLU on the left and FreedomWorks on the right.
On the House side, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) is working with thirty-five other Republicans and Democrats, including Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and the bulk of the conservative Freedom Caucus, to demand a vote on an amendment that would instead adopt Amash’s previous reform bill, the “USA Freedom Act.”
Amash in particular does have a history of success here. In September, and to the surprise of GOP leaderships, an Amash-sponsored amendment to limit civil asset forfeiture was adopted by the House.
Both chambers are expected to vote Friday on a stop-gap spending resolution, that will also briefly extend 702 authorization into January. While that’s likely not good enough for Paul and Amash, it does set up an eventual debate and vote on the 4th-Amendment-violating law after the holidays.
(Photo of U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky speaking at the Iowa Republican Party’s 2015 Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa by Gage Skidmore)