Speaker Mike Johnson Claims Classified Briefing Made Him Flip-Flop on Spy Powers Reform

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 29, 20
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) on Wednesday explained his apparent flip-flop on a controversial surveillance law, saying that he now favors limited reforms after receiving a classified briefing.

Speaker Johnson was asked by reporters why he changed his opinion on reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a controversial surveillance law that is meant to target foreign adversaries, but often surveils Americans’ communications without a warrant.

Johnson this week came out against a warrant requirement for Section 702 and moved not to allow an amendment that would have barred intelligence and law enforcement agencies from purchasing Americans’ private information through third-party data brokers. This is considered a run around the Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless searches.

This amounts to a dramatic reversal, since Johnson supported legislation to close the data broker loophole in July 2023, and the Louisiana congressman supported the USA RIGHTS act, which FreedomWorks described as one of the “strongest possible reforms” of FISA.

Johnson said his reversal came after receiving classified briefings on Section 702. He explained:

When I was a member of Judiciary I saw the abuses of the FBI, the terrible abuses over and over and over… and then when I became Speaker I went to the SCIF and got the confidential briefing on sort of the other perspective on that to understand the necessity of section 702 of FISA and how important it is for national security. And it gave me a different perspective.

“That’s part of the process, you have to be fully informed,” he added.

Watch: Jim Jordan: There are 204k Reasons to Oppose FISA Reauthorization

House Committee on the Judiciary / YouTube

After reports of Johnson’s reversal on the warrant requirement issue, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) told Breitbart News that this kowtowing to the intelligence agencies is a “prime example” of the “D.C. cartel.”

Biggs said, “I think you get swept up in the D.C. cartel. I think they come and tell you that, that blood would be on your hands. And, so the cartel tries to intimidate, put fear into people. And, so some people forget why they were taking the original position.”

Some lawmakers have argued that letting Section 702 lapse would not be the worst thing for the country.

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) explained:

When Section 215 Business Records provisions expired in 2020, the Intelligence Community didn’t stop collecting the intelligence. If Section 702 expires, they won’t stop collecting the intelligence. Executive Order 12333 is comprehensive. If Congress doesn’t limit spying on Americans and restore the 4th Amendment, #FISA should expire.

. . .

“Reauthorizing the FISA Section 702 program without substantial reforms empowers the government to continue warrantlessly surveilling the American people, which goes directly against what the founders intended when they adopted the Fourth Amendment right to privacy,” Rep. John Rose (R-TN) explained to Breitbart News this week. 

He added, “Allowing the program to die is far from the worst action Congress could take.”

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


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