Administration

Barr backs House surveillance bill

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Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday announced his support of the House’s renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). 

“I have reviewed the House FISA bill and support its passage,” Barr said in a statement. “The bill contains an array of new requirements and compliance provisions that will protect against abuse and misuse in the future while ensuring that this critical tool is available when appropriate to protect the safety of the American people.”

Agreement on the latest version of the House’s bill came at the eleventh hour, as the current iteration of the law is set to expire on Sunday. House leaders of both parties said on Tuesday that they want to see the bill passed Wednesday, sending it to the Senate with four days to spare. 

FISA has always been a controversial piece of legislation, and it was no different this time. Negotiations on the bill that dictates the United States’ surveillance power unearthed voices of dissent from the far ends of both parties. As it stands, the bill has a series of compromises.

The reauthorization of the bill would extend three expiring provisions of the USA Freedom Act that encompass roving wiretaps, “lone wolf” surveillance and a controversial program that allows the U.S. government to request access to phone metadata. The bill also introduces new privacy protections.

“First, this bill ends the call details records program that began as a secret and unlawful surveillance project almost 20 years ago. Ends it,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.

Nadler also described the new version of the bill as a “significant overhaul” to the current law.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also voiced his approval of the bipartisan bill on Tuesday.

“I think we’re in a very good place. This morning we brought back to the Democrats some other changes we would have to where we are in negotiations, hopefully we can get that done today and vote before the end of the week,” McCarthy said.  

“We want to make sure that whatever we do, especially when it comes to reforms that it works, that we are able to provide the usage of why we need FISA from the same time of the protections for every American,” he added.

Updated at 1:46 p.m.

Tags FISA House Jerrold Nadler Kevin McCarthy William Barr William Barr
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