AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Seasons Greetings: House Passes NDAA with Deep State Surveillance Authorization

The House on Thursday passed a defense bill that contains a deep state surveillance authorization, robbing lawmakers of the historic opportunity to reform the controversial Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The House voted overwhelmingly to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill laced with an authorization of Section 702 of the FISA, a controversial surveillance law that was about to expire at the end of 2023.

More Democrats voted to pass the defense package than Republicans, a move that angered Republicans when former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) passed a stop-gap spending bill earlier in 2023.

Section 702 is a law that allows intelligence agencies to collect communications of targeted foreigners. It also may lead to targeted surveillance of Americans’ private communications, which privacy advocates consider a run around of the Fourth Amendment’s requirement for a warrant to search Americans’ communications. The law will expire at the end of 2023.

The NDAA contains a provision that would extend Section 702 to April 19; however, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and other experts argue that the intelligence agencies could very well use this extension into 2025.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and other congressional leaders decided to stuff the bill with the authorization of Section 702. Johnson has flip-flopped and caved to the deep state and congressional Democrats on FISA after voicing support for reforming FISA before he became Speaker.

The Senate on Wednesday night overwhelmingly passed the NDAA even though Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) brought up a motion to remove an extension of Section 702 of the FISA, a controversial surveillance law that will expire in just a few short weeks.

Paul argued that the FISA extension is not germane — or related — to the NDAA and should not be included in the bill.

“But it appears not to be so. Though we have known when 702 would expire for years, the uniparty never seriously considered or prioritized reforms. And now we are told that we simply have no choice but to extend Section 702 into 2024,” Paul said on the Senate floor about his motion.

“Well, extending Section 702 robs Congress of the ability to make reforms now and likely robs Congress of the opportunity to make reforms any time in the next year,” he added.

Ultimately, 65 senators voted to waive Paul’s point of order and to keep the short-term extension of Section 702 in the bill. They include:

  1. John Barrasso (R-WY)
  2. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
  3. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
  4. John Boozman (R-AR)
  5. Katie Britt (R-AL)
  6. Ted Budd (R-NC)
  7. Laphonza Butler (D-CA)
  8. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
  9. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
  10. Tom Carper (D-DE)
  11. Bob Casey (D-PA)
  12. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
  13. Susan Collins (R-ME)
  14. Chris Coons (D-DE)
  15. John Cornyn (R-TX)
  16. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)
  17. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
  18. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
  19. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
  20. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
  21. Joni Ernst (R-IA)
  22. John Fetterman (D-PA)
  23. Deb Fischer (R-NE)
  24. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
  25. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  26. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
  27. John Hickenlooper (D-CO)
  28. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
  29. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  30. Mark Kelly (D-AZ)
  31. John Kennedy (R-LA)
  32. Angus King (I-ME)
  33. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
  34. James Lankford (R-OK)
  35. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
  36. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  37. Jerry Moran (R-KS)
  38. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK)
  39. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  40. Chris Murphy (D-CT)
  41. Patty Murray (D-WA)
  42. Jon Ossoff (D-GA)
  43. Alex Padilla (D-CA)
  44. Gary Peters (D-MI)
  45. Jack Reed (D-RI)
  46. Pete Ricketts (R-NE)
  47. Jim Risch (R-ID)
  48. Mitt Romney (R-UT)
  49. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)
  50. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
  51. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  52. Brian Schatz (D-HI)
  53. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
  54. Tim Scott (R-SC)
  55. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
  56. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ)
  57. Tina Smith (D-MN)
  58. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  59. Dan Sullivan (R-AK)
  60. John Thune (R-SD)
  61. Thom Tillis (R-NC)
  62. Mark Warner (D-VA)
  63. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
  64. Roger Wicker (R-MS)
  65. Todd Young (R-IN)

“Not only is this an awful betrayal of Americans’ right to privacy, the Senate’s vote potentially jeopardizes the NDAA in the House. The lengths some members of Congress will go to placate the intelligence community and allow the FBI to conduct warrantless searches of Americans is truly disappointing,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said in a written statement after the vote.

“Dear Americans, For Christmas, you get an extension of mass surveillance jammed in a ‘must-pass’ bill. You’re welcome. Sincerely, Congress,” Jason Pye, a director of the rule of law initiatives at the Due Process Institute, said.

Before the vote, privacy-oriented lawmakers called on Congress to oppose the bill.

“America – make sure you let your voices be heard this morning… no member of Congress, D or R, should be rubberstamping a continuation of the surveillance apparatus that has enabled abusive spying,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) wrote.

“Today Congress will vote to reauthorize, with no reforms, the FISA 702 surveillance program that has been used illegally to invade Americans’ privacy hundreds of thousands of times,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) wrote. “If 1/3 of the House votes against this, we can stop it. I will post the roll call after the vote.”

“And today, Congress votes on another invasion of privacy. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is being weaponized to target American citizens,” Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) wrote. “Strong reforms requiring a warrant and accountability for abuse passed Judiciary 35-2. Instead of that, we’re voting on FISA+NDAA to preserve the status quo. SHAME!”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), the primary sponsor of the House Judiciary Committee-advanced Protect Liberty and End Warrantless Surveillance Act, wrote:

I’m a hard no on the proposed 2024 NDAA—our annual military spending bill. It: Reauthorizes the flawed FISA 702 spying authority with no reforms. Continues woke initiatives in the military—including drag shows. Permits taxpayer-funded transgender surgeries. Hard no.

Edward Snowden, a private citizen whose whistleblowing revealed the far reaches of government surveillance, wrote:

If Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) abuses the NDAA to smuggle into law an extension of the warrantless surveillance regime (FISA702) that the FBI exploited to spy ON AMERICANS more than TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND times in JUST ONE YEAR, he should be dumped just like McCarthy. No excuse.

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

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