Did the Leak of Alleged Russia National Security Threat Kill The Bill To Reform Warrantless Surveillance?

At the last minute, a new excuse not to end warrantless surveillance is found.

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The contentious US surveillance program’s reauthorization faced a major setback over the last week. The United States House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI) played a pivotal role in derailing the process, leading to a stalemate that hindered any progress before Congress’s focus shifts to the impending government shutdown in March.

Negotiations between opposing House committees unraveled on Wednesday when HPSCI members, instead of participating in a key meeting, chose to derail a pre-agreed plan for a “compromise” bill. This development came as a blow to months of efforts aimed at renewing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a controversial intelligence tool that has, despite promises not to, has allowed the warrantless surveillance of US citizens.

This deadlock in Congress has left the intelligence community in disarray and pushed security advocates to defend surveillance practices, despite their acknowledged susceptibility to misuse.

Key insiders reveal that HPSCI leaders reneged on a privately negotiated deal after lengthy discussions. As reported by Wired, these sources, who requested anonymity, indicated that the collapse of the deal was due to an amendment proposal. This amendment aimed to stop the government from buying information from US companies without a warrant, focusing particularly on cell phone location data often used for tracking individuals.

HPSCI Chair Mike Turner was at the center of this upheaval. He skipped a critical hearing that took place on Wednesday, where lawmakers were to set the voting rules. His absence, coupled with HPSCI’s failure to file necessary amendments, signaled a lack of commitment to the process. Concurrently, Turner was reportedly involved in private discussions with House Speaker Mike Johnson, threatening to torpedo the bill he had previously endorsed.

Simultaneously, Turner and other HPSCI members attempted to rally votes against any privacy improvements by hinting at an “urgent” US threat, later identified as a potential Russian capability to deploy nuclear weapons in space.

Following these developments, four advocacy organizations demanded Turner’s resignation as Intel Chair in a letter, accusing him of inciting panic for political gains.

Internal emails suggest that HPSCI’s Jim Himes also played a role in this strategy, urging Democrats to look into the intelligence in a secure setting, implying an urgent foreign military threat. This move seemingly guaranteed a media leak.

Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Bob Good, is urging for the displacement of Turner, due to his attempts to thwart the reform of governmental surveillance. Good voiced his opinion on Friday, stating Turner’s bid at reauthorizing FISA without making crucial reforms to safeguard the fundamental constitutional rights of American citizens warrants his removal.

In a discussion with Just the News, Good stated, “I do not think he should remain as chairman. We have a constitution that limits what government can do.”

He continued by claiming that the stance taken by the Intelligence Committee is in stark disagreement with this, citing vast instances where FISA was exploited since its installment.

Emerging as the newest member of Congress advocating for Turner’s dismissal, Good has highlighted Turner’s excessive exaggeration of Russia’s prospective threat.

Additions to the voice against Turner include Rep. Andy Biggs, who shares the sentiment that Turner should be replaced due to his apparent “political stunt.” As Biggs claims, Turner worked to halt attempts focused on limiting “warrantless government surveillance.”

As the leading endorser of the Protect Liberty and End Warrantless Surveillance Act – an initiative seeking to reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – put forward by the House Judiciary Committee, Biggs also aims to cease other abuses pertaining to surveillance.

The letter pinpointed a series of detrimental tactics from Turner, culminating in the frantic state caused by the immediate political exploitation of these potential future threats. They claimed that these actions were beneath the position held by Turner, and urged for his removal from the committee he currently chairs, one that was created to limit and not perpetuate warrantless domestic spying.

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