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House braces for battle over renewing controversial FISA surveillance tool

House Republicans are expected to vote on renewing a controversial federal government surveillance tool when they return from recess next week, multiple sources told Fox News Digital.

Two House GOP aides and a GOP lawmaker – all who spoke on the condition of anonymity – said the House could take up Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is set to expire on April 19 if Congress does not act soon. One of the aides said plans are still fluid.

Section 702 has been both credited with preventing terror attacks on U.S. soil and accused of being a vehicle for spying on U.S. citizens.

It lets the government keep tabs on specific foreign nationals outside the country without first obtaining a warrant to do so, even if the party on the other side of those communications is a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.

The debate over its renewal has been intense, and it’s made unlikely allies out of hard-liners on the left and right alike over accusations it tramples on Americans’ civil rights. The FBI has been accused of improperly using Section 702 to spy on Black Lives Matter protesters in the summer of 2020 as well as people who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

‘Freedom surrendered is rarely reclaimed. Next week, Congress once again confronts an opportunity for reform and accountability of [FISA],’ Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, one of the tool’s critics, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday.

‘Demand a debate and recorded vote to require warrants to search American citizens’ data, to limit the scope of collection, and to stop the government from avoiding warrants by buying data that would require a warrant or subpoena.’

Section 702’s supporters, which include national security hawks and moderates on both sides, point out that Section 702 is critical to avoiding another Sept. 11, 2001-style attack and have accused its detractors of trying to gut the program to the point of inoperability. 

It’s not immediately clear what a FISA renewal would look like – multiple plans to do so have fallen apart already. 

Most recently, a compromise bill put together by negotiators for the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees was abruptly pulled from the House floor schedule after Republicans on the Intelligence panel threatened to tank the legislation.

Three sources close to the Intelligence Committee told Fox News Digital at the time that it was about an amendment that would have forced law enforcement to seek a warrant before obtaining communications that involved a U.S. citizen.

‘That would be the equivalent of a police officer needing a warrant before running a license plate,’ one of the three sources said.

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., who supported the warrant amendment, hit back at the Intelligence Committee’s reform efforts at the time, saying, ‘Intel didn’t want the Judiciary [amendments]. See, the Judiciary Committee is the committee of jurisdiction. That’s where it should’ve gone.’

But the third source close to the Intelligence Committee said those on the panel ‘are the ones that see the threats to our nation up close and personal every day.’

An earlier proposal to hold votes on dueling bills and send the highest vote-getter to the Senate had also been scrapped. One had been by the House Judiciary Committee, which would have vastly restricted the program, and another by the House Intelligence panel would have made improvements to transparency and accountability pipelines.

Fox News Digital reached out to Johnson’s office for comment but did not hear back at press time.

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS
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