Wednesday, March 22, 2023
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Sen. Mike Lee: ‘Not a Chance in Hell’ FISA Spy Powers Will Be Renewed

'The FBI used its Section 702 powers to collect the data of roughly 3.4 million U.S. people in 2021—up from 1.3 million a year before...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USASen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Wednesday that unless drastic reforms are made to address malfeasance within the Justice Department, there’s “not a chance in hell” that he’ll support renewing the U.S. government’s soon-to-expire spying powers.

Lee was speaking about Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the U.S. government to target foreigners outside the U.S. for intelligence purposes. This often results in the collection of Americans’ communications.

The senator cited a litany of Section 702 abuses perpetrated by the DOJ, which were revealed in a recent government audit conducted by the DOJ and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The abuses included the FBI monitoring a local political party “to determine if the party had connections to foreign intelligence,” as well as numerous searches through 702 data for an unnamed “U.S. congressman.”

“There’s not a chance in hell we’re going to reauthorize that thing without some major reforms,” Lee said Wednesday, speaking to Attorney General Merrick Garland during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s DOJ oversight hearing.

To Lee’s concerns, the FBI promises that it has made reforms since the audit, which covers the period Dec. 1, 2019, to May 31, 2020.

However, a report last year from ODNI revealed that the number of searches conducted by the FBI of Americans’ communications doubled from 2020 to 2021.

According to the report, the FBI used its Section 702 powers to collect the data of roughly 3.4 million U.S. people in 2021—up from 1.3 million a year before. The report only provides statistics for 2020 and 2021.

Senior Biden administration officials reportedly attributed the uptick in FBI searches to Russian cyberattacks throughout 2021.

But privacy activists said last year’s report as well as this latest audit further demonstrate the need for FISA reform.

“There is a reason EPIC has spent years advocating for reform of Section 702 and for the end of the backdoor search loophole the FBI uses to conduct warrantless searches—these searches are ripe for abuse. The FBI has proven this over and over again,” Electronic Privacy Information Center lawyer Jeramie Scott said in a statement Friday

“These latest revelations are only the latest in a string of improper FBI searches that violate Americans’ privacy. Congress must enact serious reform of Section 702 or let the authority expire.”

Lee’s skepticism about reauthorizing Seciton 702 is joined by other leading Republicans, including House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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