National Security

Rand Paul rails against ‘weak sauce’ surveillance deal: ‘Big disappointment’

Bonnie Cash

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) knocked a last-minute deal in the House to reauthorize expiring intelligence programs, saying its reforms to the court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) fall short.

“The ‘Deal’ on FISA is weak sauce diluted [and] made impotent by A.G. Barr. None of the reforms prevent secret FISA court from abusing the rights of Americans. None of the reforms prevent a President of either party from a politically motivated investigation. Big Disappointment!” Paul tweeted early Tuesday evening.

His comments come after House lawmakers announced on Tuesday that they had struck an agreement ahead of the March 15 deadline for expiring provisions in the USA Freedom Act, a 2015 law that overhauled the country’s intelligence programs.

The agreement includes more privacy protections and transparency in the FISA court process, including requiring legal representation for an individual targeted if the government’s application “presents exceptional concerns about the First Amendment rights of U.S. persons.”

It also bolsters penalties for those who abuse the FISA court.

But Paul, a long-time critic of the FISA court, wants language that would prohibit a FISA warrant being used against an American citizen, and prohibit FISA information from being used against an American in domestic court.

The House deal was largely negotiated without the input of senators, a potential curveball in its chances of passing the Senate this week. It is expected to go to the House floor for a vote Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has also advocated for changes to FISA, told reporters shortly after the deal was announced that he was still reviewing it.

“Based on earlier drafts of it I don’t like it at all,” he said.

Because of the tight time frame to get legislation through Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is going to need consent from every senator to speed up consideration of the bill.

That could give leverage to senators like Paul and Lee to try to push through changes or force a lapse of the expiring USA Freedom provisions.

Paul previously used the Senate’s procedural tools to force a brief lapse of the post-9/11 Patriot Act.

A spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a question on Tuesday night about what his tweet means for his willingness to let the House deal move quickly through the Senate.

Tags FISA Fisa Court FISA warrant Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Rand Paul Surveillance USA Freedom Act
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