Johnson Defends Vote to Kill FISA Warrant Requirement

Joseph Lord
By Joseph Lord
April 14, 2024Congress
Johnson Defends Vote to Kill FISA Warrant Requirement
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) listens during a press conference following a House GOP caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 10, 2024. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on April 14 defended his crucial vote against an amendment that would have required intelligence agencies to get a warrant to search Americans’ data under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Last week, the House passed a reauthorization of the controversial spying program for two years by a vote of 273–147.

That final passage came after an amendment by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) to require a warrant to query Americans’ communications and other data failed in a rare tie vote. Mr. Johnson, who, as speaker, doesn’t always vote, cast the decisive vote that killed the proposal, prompting outrage and condemnation from some conservatives.

During an April 14 appearance on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Mr. Johnson defended that vote, saying that a warrant requirement is “not helpful.”

He insisted that Section 702 is an important tool that has stopped other terrorist attacks like 9/11.

“Remember, that’s how we killed terrorists. That’s how we stopped terrorist plots on US soil,” Mr. Johnson said. “That’s why we haven’t had another 9/11 since that terrible tragedy.”

Mr. Johnson’s comments come after he held a press conference with former President Donald Trump earlier this week, during which President Trump expressed his support for the speaker.

During his Sunday appearance, Mr. Johnson said that President Trump is “100 percent with me.”

However, the two have had at least one public break over the FISA issue.

In a post to Truth Social that came just days before the House passage of the reauthorization, President Trump wrote, “KILL FISA, IT WAS ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME, AND MANY OTHERS. THEY SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN!!!”

President Trump in that post was referencing the program’s use in the botched and discredited Crossfire Hurricane probe into his 2016 campaign, which was predicated on false claims that President Trump was working with Russia.

Despite this disagreement, Mr. Johnson said that he and the former president “agree on the necessity of the uses of FISA.”

“President Trump used it and he reauthorized it in 2018 for six years and that’s why it’s up again,” Mr. Johnson added.

The authority expired during President Trump’s term and, despite his reservations about the program, he encouraged Congress at the time to reauthorize it.

Mr. Johnson argued that having a bill that would expire in two years means that, should President Trump win reelection in November, “he’s the one that gets to determine what’s working well.”

Speaking further about the issue of warrants, Mr. Johnson explained the reasoning behind his vote.

Mr. Johnson used to support the warrant requirement, but has said he changed his mind after receiving classified briefings on the program.

He gave an example to explain why he thinks a warrant requirement would be too burdensome for intelligence agencies.

“If we’re surveilling a terrorist in the Middle East, and the terrorist sends an email to a guy named John Smith in Any Town, U.S.A, and the email says, ‘The components will be delivered to your house this afternoon for further assembly and delivery to the high school stadium during the game,’ I think every American would want the analyst who saw that email from that foreign terrorist to do a query of the other communications between those two persons,” Mr. Johnson said.

He said that these uses of Americans’ data are “not unlawful.”

“If analysts had to get a warrant before that, it would add a huge time delay. The courts are not set up to be able to handle all that volume. And Americans may die,” Mr. Johnson said. “We want to look at those emails and find out, ‘my goodness, which high school stadium, what time, and is this a bomb, and what are the components?’ We have to continue that to save American lives.”

The Senate has yet to pass the legislation, and it is likely that in the upper chamber too, debates will rage between national security hawkishness and civil liberty concerns.

However, a warrant requirement seems likely to have less support in the Senate than it did in the lower chamber, and Section 702 seems to be on track for a swift reauthorization when the Senate returns Monday.

President Joe Biden, who has also spoken against the warrant requirement, is expected to sign it.

From The Epoch Times

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