Several Republican Senators Joined Democrats in Extending the FBI’s Warrantless Surveillance Program

Surprising many, 32 Republican Senators, alongside 33 Democrats, approved the extension of Section 702—a provision within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

This measure, passed on Wednesday, allows government surveillance of Americans without cause or a warrant and was set to expire at the end of December.

Notably, the FBI has faced accusations of surveillance power abuses, including criticism from then-President Donald Trump, who warned of a weaponized Department of Justice and widespread abuses of power at several well-attended rallies.

Despite Senator Mike Lee’s (R-UT) impassioned pleas for repeal, they failed to sway his Republican peers, who ultimately did not vote down the measure.

Anticipating the likely approval of the measure, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) sought to postpone the vote, but only 17 Republicans supported his proposal.

While most Republican Senators voting for the bill acknowledged the need to review FISA, they argued against completely shutting down surveillance capabilities.

The New York Times reported that the House was set to examine two competing FISA-related amendments on Tuesday. However, internal disagreements among Republicans led to the cancellation of further discussions and votes.

An amendment, co-sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) in collaboration with the Protect Liberty and End Warrantless Surveillance Act organization in Arizona, proposed substantial limitations on warrantless government surveillance.

Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee endorsed the FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2023, criticized by some for potentially expanding the government’s surveillance capabilities. The bill aimed to broaden the definition of “electronic service communications provider” to include “equipment that is being or may be used to transmit or store such communications.”

The bill was sent to the Senate without any modifications. A conclusive vote on the legislation is anticipated in early 2024.