US Congress Aims To Extend Warrantless Surveillance For The Foreseeable Future – OpEd


Late last year, Congress extended Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and, in doing so, secured “the nation’s warrantless surveillance powers” until April 2024. With that month fast approaching, House Republicans have unveiled a new package to reauthorize those same powers, within limits.

As The Hill reports, the new package “focus[es] on more reforms at the FBI to address misuse of the powerful spy tool,” but the deal does not include requirements for a warrant, which is “deemed a red line for the intelligence community but nonetheless a top priority for privacy advocates in Congress.”

The new measure “would severely limit the number of FBI personnel who can query the database, forcing more oversight from some 550 supervisors or lawyers before agents can tap into the database to gain information on Americans.” The bill aims to “protect members of Congress or other high-profile officials” by requiring consent before a “defensive briefing.”

The FBI will be required to “notify a member of Congress, with some limitation, if they have been queried in the 702 database.” As members of Congress and the public may have noticed, the FBI, tasked with counterintelligence, has become a law unto itself.

Last August, an FBI squad gunned down Craig Robertson, a 75-year-old woodworker, for things he had allegedly posted online. The killing was reportedly under review by the FBI’s Inspection Division, but as of this writing there has been no investigation by Congress. As members may have noted, the FBI now operates along partisan lines.

As Newsweek headlined last Oct. 4, “Donald Trump Followers Targeted by FBI as 2024 Election Nears.” According to the report, the FBI has “quietly created a new category of extremists that it seeks to track and counter: Donald Trump’s army of MAGA followers.”

A “senior FBI official” told Newsweek: “We cannot and do not investigate ideology. We focus on individuals who commit or intend to commit violence or criminal activity that constitutes a federal crime or poses a threat to national security.” The people have cause to wonder.

The FBI failed to stop the 1993 bomb attack on the World Trade Center, the massive terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the terrorist mass murders at Fort Hood in 2009, the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, and terrorist mass murders in San Bernardino in 2015 and Orlando in 2016, with 49 dead. On the other hand, the FBI surveilled and harassed such dangerous criminals as singer Aretha Franklin and actress Jean Seberg.

While assessing the FBI, members of Congress might read Neutering the CIA: Why US Intelligence versus Trump Has Long-Term Consequences. Former CIA analyst John A. Gentry charts a woke agency now deployed against “another serious candidacy by Trump,” with units ready for reactivation “if even a traditional Republican again becomes president.” This from an agency tasked with providing intelligence on foreign adversaries.

As Gentry notes, the entire “Intelligence Community” failed to prevent the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, and for this failure was rewarded with bigger budgets. With the secretive IC now active in domestic politics, massive failures become more likely, with many innocent lives at stake. The CIA, like the FBI, has become a law unto itself.

The real question for federal lawmakers is whether the CIA and FBI are even reformable, and how the people’s representatives might hold them accountable. Instead they seek to prolong surveillance measures that, as critics rightly contend, have no place in a free and democratic society.

Members of Congress get special protections, but so far there’s no word about safeguards against warrantless surveillance for pro-life activistsprotesting parents, and devout Catholics—all regarded as dangerous extremists by the current FBI. Journalists, especially those who are critical of the bureau, also have cause for concern. They can take it as a sign that Big Brother is watching, as George Orwell wrote in 1984—or, in the style of Humphrey Bogart in Casablancahere’s still looking at you, kid.

This article was also published in The American Spectator

K. Lloyd Billingsley

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller.

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