Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs

Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs
© Keren Carrion

Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDesperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size Sanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans Centrist Democrats urge progressives to tamp down rhetoric MORE (D-Wash.) and Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonOhio Republican apologizes for comparing DC vaccine mandate to Nazi Germany amid backlash Ohio Republican sparks condemnation for comparing DC vaccine mandate to Nazi Germany Trump war with GOP seeps into midterms MORE (R-Ohio) on Thursday spearheaded a letter pressing the Trump administration to detail its current surveillance programs after the March expiration of the USA Freedom Act.

The letter to Attorney General William BarrBill BarrJan. 6 committee chair says panel spoke to William Barr William Barr's memoir set for release in early March The enemy within: Now every day is Jan. 6 MORE and Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeWe need scientific analysis of satellite data on UAP Set to make history on UFOs, Congress revives the '1 percent' doctrine This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE raises concerns that the administration may be using an executive order to illegally engage in mass surveillance.

Executive Order 12333, issued in 1981, has been used before to conduct operations without statutory authorization or congressional oversight.

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“With the expiration of Section 215, we are concerned that the executive branch may, once again, be using questionable legal theories of executive authority to justify the illegal surveillance of the American people,” Jayapal and Davidson wrote in the letter, which was signed by another 37 other representatives.

The letter raises concerns about comments made by then-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Pelosi says she's open to stock trading ban for Congress Momentum builds to prohibit lawmakers from trading stocks MORE (R-N.C.) during debate over the reauthorization suggesting that EO 12333 could be used to conduct the same surveillance authorized by the USA Freedom Act.

A similar interpretation was used to justify Stellar Wind, the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping of American citizens’ phone calls and emails.

“If what Burr said is true, it sounds like the government thinks most of Stellar Wind is still on the table,” Sean Vitka, senior policy counsel at the progressive group Demand Progress, told The Hill.

Reauthorization of the key FISA provisions outlined in Thursday’s letter under the USA Freedom Act has stalled.

House leadership ultimately sent the bill to committee in May after President TrumpDonald TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll MORE came out against it and a key progressive amendment was pulled.

Thursday’s letter asks for documentation showing the administration issued guidance to ensure surveillance activities under USA Freedom were halted on March 15.

It also presses the administration on whether it treats domestic information and identifiers as presumptively foreign for Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows dragnet data collection to obtain foreign intelligence information.

The letter closely mirrors one sent to the administration by Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Former US attorney considering Senate run in Vermont as Republican MORE (D-Vt.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeePut partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (R-Utah). That letter has not received a response.

A spokesperson for Leahy told The Hill on Thursday that the Vermont lawmaker is glad to see that so many bipartisan House members are asking the same “important questions.”