President Trump declared his intention to veto the FISA Bill if it passes the House tonight.
In a big win for privacy-conscious Americans, President Trump has signaled his intention to veto the FISA bill currently up for a vote in the lower chamber. Earlier, to the universal disdain of almost all political ideologies, the Senate pushed through the now-infamous Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act section of the equally disdained PATRIOT Act.
A brief rundown on what we’re talking about:
Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the U.S. government engages in mass, warrantless surveillance of Americans’ and foreigners’ phone calls, text messages, emails, and other electronic communications. Information collected under the law without a warrant can be used to prosecute and imprison people, even for crimes that have nothing to do with national security. Given our nation’s history of abusing its surveillance authorities, and the secrecy surrounding the program, we should be concerned that Section 702 is and will be used to disproportionately target disfavored groups, whether minority communities, political activists, or even journalists.
Previously, the Senate pushed through the bill without altering language that allowed the FBI to monitor the internet usage of Americans without first getting a warrant—an invasion of privacy that many feel is also a violation of the 4th Amendment.
On 13 May, the Senate rejected an amendment to the bill which would have required law enforcement to seek a warrant when they wished to monitor the web browsing, electronic communications, and search history of Americans. In a 59-37 vote, the measure fell just shy of the 60 votes needed to pass. Among the Senators who struck down the amendment that would have insulated the privacy rights of their constituents were Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va).
Now, with the bill headed to the House floor, the President has sent out an explosive warning to the lower chamber: he will not sign it.
“If the FISA Bill is passed tonight on the House floor, I will quickly VETO it,” the president tweeted. “Our Country has just suffered through the greatest political crime in its history. The massive abuse of FISA was a big part of it!”
If the FISA Bill is passed tonight on the House floor, I will quickly VETO it. Our Country has just suffered through the greatest political crime in its history. The massive abuse of FISA was a big part of it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2020
The House previously reauthorized the PATRIOT Act provisions, sending the bill to the Senate for their input. Upon revisions from the Senate, the bill was returned to the House for further review. The House has begun considering proposals that would alter the language to protect the privacy rights of Americans. This would send the bill back to the Senate if successful.
FISA’s roots trace back to the 1970s during the Watergate-era during which an unfortunate and traitorous ruling by the Supreme Court decided that the privacy rights of Americans didn’t apply when information they transmitted was stored by a third party. Today, that third party often means an internet service provider.
This is a developing story and this article will be updated as more information comes to light.