Edward Votes To Approve Bill Allowing Warrantless Surveillance - TribPapers

Edward Votes To Approve Bill Allowing Warrantless Surveillance

U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards. Photo Provided.

WNC – Moments before the final approval of H.B. 7888 – Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act on Friday (April 12th) the House dismissed a proposal from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) requiring a warrant for surveillance on Americans.

During the vote, 86 Republicans supported this move towards not requiring a warrant. One of those 86 Republicans was WNC’s own Chuck Edwards. He joined fellow North Carolina Republican representatives: Virginia Foxx, Patrick T. McHenry, Gregory F. Murphy and David Rouzer in helping to pass the bill.

What is H.B. 7888?

According to a summary of the bill found at www.congress.gov the bill would: Places statutory limits on querying the contents of information collected under Section 702, including:

“Prohibiting Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) personnel from making U.S. person queries without prior approval by certain FBI supervisors or attorneys unless the query might mitigate or eliminate a threat to life or serious bodily harm” but falls short of requiring a warrant as the Consitution demands.

“requiring the FBI Deputy Director to approve certain politically sensitive query terms (such as those that identify certain elected and appointed officials);

“prohibiting the involvement of political appointees in the approval process for such politically sensitive query requests; and “requiring the FBI Director to establish consequences for non-compliant querying of U.S. person terms, including zero tolerance for willful misconduct.”

Other provisions included in the bill are:

requiring applications for a surveillance order under FISA to be supported by sworn statements and limiting the use of information in such applications derived from political organizations or media sources, increasing criminal penalties related to FISA, and requiring adverse consequences (e.g., suspension without pay or removal) for government officers and employees who engage in intentional misconduct with respect to proceedings before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review.

While supposedly tightening unconstitutional surveillance of Americans, some say the law falls far beyond what the Constitution requires. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) criticized Speaker Mike Johnson for siding with Democrats, saying, “Speaker Johnson was incredibly wrong,” Paul was quoted as saying on “Fox News Sunday.” “Here we have the leader of the Republicans in the House” voting with the “Democrats against a warrant requirement.”

Government Contract Edward Snowden, a native of North Carolina, first blew the whistle on the government’s highly classified National Security Agency program, warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens. In 2013, a move that made him a wanted man in the U.S., so he was forced to seek asylum in Russia.

The Tribune contact Congressman Edwards about his vote, Maria Kim, Edwards’ spokesperson, responded with this statement: “FISA Section 702 is vital to our national security amid the rising threats we’re seeing from foreign adversaries like Hamas, China, Russia, and the fentanyl-trafficking cartels. President Trump reauthorized it in 2018 and I’ve received multiple classified briefings and learned of many specific examples where FISA has saved American lives.

“However, due to numerous abuses of FISA, the entire program was in desperate need of reforms before reauthorization. In an outrageous abuse of trust, senior FBI agents misled the courts and relied on political opposition research to conduct surveillance on a Trump campaign official. Additionally, the FBI, in particular, has repeatedly failed to follow its own procedures for when it can appropriately search these sensitive foreign intelligence databases using the names or other personal information of Americans.

“To address these egregious problems while preserving this important national security tool, I supported legislation that contained 56 reforms, most of which were agreeable to most Republicans. These “fixes” to Section 702 involved changing querying procedures at the FBI, limiting the use of information obtained under Section 702, requiring greater oversight of Section 702 targeting decisions, reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), imposing stronger criminal penalties for FISA violations, and holding leaders accountable for FISA abuses on their watch.

“It’s also important to note that FISA 702 was only reauthorized for two years instead of five. This should give time for Congress to hold hearings to determine the effectiveness of the changes, and to allow the next president to weigh in again on the matter.”