House Speaker Johnson Kills FISA Warrant Amendment

As the House debated the future of warrantless surveillance of American citizens this week, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and a coalition of establishment Republicans and Democrats voted down a crucial amendment that demanded federal authorities secure a warrant before such spying. The amendment, which failed to pass with a 212-212 vote, was introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and aimed to reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).


The vote leaves the power of warrantless surveillance under Section 702 in place. Even though there was significant bipartisan support for the amendment requiring a warrant, the Biden administration and the Intelligence Committee leaned heavily on Democrats and Johnson to vote against it.


The final vote to reauthorize FISA for another two years passed the House by a 273-147 vote, sending the measure to the Senate. The vote came after intense lobbying from Joe Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who had contacted lawmakers directly to press for votes against the warrant amendment.



Rep. Biggs criticized the Biden administration’s stance on continuing surveillance without judicial oversight: “But when it comes to warrantless searches for Americans, they can’t provide any examples of where that’s provided any useful information, and yet they want to continue to look at U.S. persons’ information without a warrant.”


House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) led the GOP contingent that supported the amendment, pointing directly to the Fourth Amendment’s strict requirement for warrants prior to spying on citizens.


Speaker Johnson, who has faced challenges in uniting his party on various issues since taking the gavel under controversial circumstances, lavishly praised the bill as a “balanced reform package.” He acknowledged past misuse of the surveillance tools, notably during the 2016 election. Still, he argued that the reforms included in the bill were “good enough” to prevent future problems.


The bill incorporates several reforms, such as limiting the number of officials who can authorize searches of Americans’ data and requiring a Justice Department audit of all queries concerning U.S. persons. The weak after-the-fact reviews and limited pre-authorization measures do little to balance out the unconstitutional provision for warrantless spying.


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  • G
    April 14, 2024

    Hmm – ‘maybe’ MTG is correct about him – apparently that pesky 4th Amendment no longer applies. Exactly what ‘reason’ will the ;authorities’ now need to perform unwarranted (pun intended) searches or will a whim be sufficient. Seems to me that the ‘standard’ is now ‘because I want to’ – prove me wrong.

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