House Judiciary Goes After Spy Bill to Protect Americans

( – House Democrats and Republicans came together on Monday to introduce a bill that would reauthorize warrantless spying on Americans under the condition of new restrictions on data access and increased penalties for government agents who violate those restrictions.

The bill deals with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), specifically Section 702 allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to monitor communications and collect data on foreign nationals outside of the US even if those communications are between the national and an American citizen.

Republican Rep. Andy Briggs of Arizona introduced the bill, which was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including some from the House Judiciary Committee. Some of the co-sponsors include Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, and other ranking members such as Democratic Rep. Jerold Nadler of New York.

The new proposal comes as Congress races to figure out a resolution to the debate about Section 702, which is set to expire at the end of the year. The looming expiration provoked competing proposals about how the law should be reformed and the means by which it should be reauthorized.

Amid the debate, FBI Director Christopher Wray also weighed in and pleaded with Congress to reauthorize Section 702. Wray said the law is “indispensable” in the bureau’s efforts to combat terror threats by allowing the government to be “a step ahead” of those outside the US who may “pose a national security threat.” He argued that failing to renew the law would amount to a “unilateral disarmament” of the FBI.

The bipartisan proposal would require a warrant from law enforcement entities in order to review any data or information on US citizens swept up in searches about foreign nationals, with some exceptions for emergencies. It also would block the government from purchasing information from data brokers about American citizens and restrict the number of FBI agents allowed to conduct searches under Section 702.

Opponents of the specific section of FISA argue that it is unconstitutional and violates the civil liberties of Americans.

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