House to Vote on Competing FISA Reform Bills: Protect Liberty Act & ‘PATRIOT Act 2.0’

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The House this week will vote on two competing FISA reform bills, the Protect Liberty and End Warrantless Surveillance Act, and the other that has been derided by privacy advocates as the “PATRIOT Act 2.0.”

The House will consider two bills, H.R. 6570, the Protect Liberty and End Warrantless Surveillance Act, and H.R. 6611, the FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2023. The bills will be considered by a “Queen-of-the-Hill” floor process, where whichever of these two bills gets the most votes wins, and will be the House’s preferred solution for Section 702 of FISA.

Both bills aim to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); however, they would reform the controversial surveillance law in drastically different ways.

The House Judiciary Committee-advanced Protect Liberty and End Warrantless Surveillance Act would require a warrant for any American’s information sought under Section 702.

The legislation would also prohibit law enforcement and intelligence agencies from purchasing Americans’ private data through data brokers, a practice known as the “data broker loophole.” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), who was the primary sponsor of the Protect Liberty Act, decried this practice, believing it to be a run around the Fourth Amendment.

RELATED VIDEO — Rep. Andy Biggs: CDC Purchased $420K Worth of Data to Surveil Americans During the Coronavirus Pandemic:

U.S. House of Representatives

The Judiciary bill would also limit how many FBI agents can search the Section 702 database and would set up penalties for violations under FISA.

Former House Judiciary Committee Chairmen Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) hailed the Protect Liberty Act as the “most important government surveillance reform measure in several generations.” They noted it takes “incredible strides to put an end to abuses that have persisted for far too long.”

FreedomWorks and Demand Progress noted that top FISA experts have expressed great concerns about the House Intelligence bill, referring to it as a “PATRIOT Act 2.0”:

In the words of top FISA expert and one of five handpicked FISA Court Amici, Marc Zwillinger, the Intelligence Committee’s legislation “greatly expand[s]” the number of businesses and their employees who could be compelled to spy on their customers and provide warrantless access to their communications systems pursuant to this extremely controversial FISA provision, Section 702.

According to the Amicus, it threatens to turn “data centers, colocation providers, business landlords, shared workspaces, or even hotels” into conduits for gag-ordered warrantless surveillance under Section 702, potentially even reaching “third part[ies] involved in providing equipment, storage, or even cleaning services to such entities.”

Demand Progress Policy Director Sean Vitka and FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon urged Congress to oppose the House Intelligence Committee bill and instead support the Protect Liberty Act, which they noted is supported by more than 50-plus organizations.

Vitka and Brandon said in a joint statement:

The FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act is a Trojan Horse for PATRIOT Act 2.0. Chairman Turner and Ranking Member Himes should be ashamed of themselves for either deliberately or incompetently writing legislation that would dramatically expand warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of FISA, the massive spying power that has been abused on a ‘persistent and widespread’ basis. This is staggering overreach that is absolutely at odds with the millions of Americans crying out for Congress to protect their privacy.

The House Intelligence Committee’s bill is a threat to literally every American as well as every American business. We’re sounding the alarm on this dangerous legislation: it must not pass.

RELATED VIDEO — Jim Jordan: There Are 204K Reasons to Oppose FISA Reauthorization:

House Committee on the Judiciary / YouTube

FreedomWorks and Demand Progress also cited several of the recent Section 702 abuses:

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), cofounder of the bipartisan Fourth Amendment Caucus, cheered the Protect Liberty Act and said that the Intelligence Committee bill would only expand 702 surveillance authority:

The Judiciary Committee successfully and overwhelmingly passed the Protect Liberty and End Warrantless Surveillance Act, largely inspired by the bicameral Government Surveillance Reform Act, by a bipartisan vote. The ever-growing growing support for surveillance reform by Members of Congress is promising, but we cannot be complacent.

The Intelligence Committee’s ‘FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act’ may have the word reform in its name, but the bill’s text proves otherwise. As legal experts point out, Section 504 of the bill would actually expand the government’s 702 authority by widening the definition of service providers. That is counter to Congress’ original intent, counter to Members of Congress’ expressed desires now, and unquestionably counter to the Fourth Amendment.

Additionally, hidden in the released NDAA is a seemingly-innocuous ‘short-term’ reauthorization of Section 702 of FISA until April 19, 2024. However, ‘short-term’ reauthorization masks a de facto 16-month extension, raising serious concerns about warrantless surveillance and Congressional intent.

Congress must not greenlight another major surveillance reauthorization without enacting surveillance reform measures that curb abuses and protect Americans’ civil liberties. That includes through the overreaching FRRA or the so-called short-term extension in the NDAA. They both extend or expand programs that law enforcement and intelligence agencies admit bypass the Fourth Amendment. [Emphasis added]

Biggs wrote, “The Intel Community wants to expand the FISA 702 spying authority. This means your Fourth Amendment privacy rights will continue to be violated. The Protect Liberty Act protects your privacy rights.”

Sean Moran is a policy reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.


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