House Faces Division Over Surveillance Reform Efforts

 April 8, 2024

Speaker Mike Johnson has been spotlighted for handling pivotal surveillance legislation reform amid swirling controversy.

Critics from conservatives are mounting against Speaker Mike Johnson for his handling of surveillance reform. They are particularly frustrated with his obstruction of key amendments to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

This comes as the House prepares to vote on the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act (RISAA), which, as it stands, lacks considerable warrant requirements.

Breitbart News reported that Speaker Mike Johnson, who hails from Louisiana, has come under fire for what has been perceived as dragging his feet on crucial surveillance law reform. At the heart of the contention is the House's pending consideration of RISAA, which aims to amend Section 702 of FISA, which has been criticized for allowing the surveillance of Americans without warrants.

A significant sticking point is the bill's forwarding without a particular amendment to prevent law enforcement and intelligence agencies from acquiring Americans’ data through third-party brokers. Johnson has suggested addressing this matter in a separate piece of legislation, stirring fears among some issues becoming lost in legislative limbo.

Rep. Warren Davidson strongly critiqued Johnson's approach, saying, “It’s disappointing to watch Speaker as speaker essentially has crossed over to the intel point of view,” reflecting a sentiment that Johnson's strategies may favor intelligence viewpoints over privacy concerns.

Critiques Highlight Concerns Over FISA Reforms

This week, the Biden administration played a role, with CIA, FBI, and other intelligence officials set to enlighten House members on FISA. Davidson views this move as favoring intelligence committee perspectives to the detriment of privacy advocates pushing for a stipulation on warrants.

Discontent has been vocalized by Davidson and other representatives regarding the trajectory and potential impacts of the surveillance reform initiatives, highlighting broader debates over privacy and security. Experts like Noah Chauvin and Elizabeth Goitein have criticized the RISAA as insufficient and weaker than other proposed legislation.

Speaker Johnson's position has not only been challenged internally but has also faced external political pressures, notably from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. She has been outspoken, asserting her stance with:

Warrantless spying is wrong...I don’t trust our government to stop abusing FISA. I’ll go ahead and give you my vote, it’s a NO to FISA reauthorization without warrants.

Political Divide Deepens Over Surveillance Legislation

Davidson articulated further disappointment in Johnson's leadership, emphasizing:

It seems the speaker has a plan to tank that as well. What it’s designed to do is to kill the entire reform effort. They essentially want to concede that, ‘Okay, we allowed the debate to happen — but we are working very aggressively to make sure it doesn’t become law.

Additionally, criticisms have spanned across several fronts, with voices like Ric Grenell terming the reauthorization of Section 702 as "pathetically weak" and Rep. Eli Crane condemning a "clean" reauthorization as a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Echoing discontent, Rep. Thomas Massie lamented, “The U.S. government uses the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to spy on Americans without a warrant...Sadly this vote is likely to fail.”


The events in the House reflecting discontent among conservatives over surveillance reform, particularly the handling of Section 702 of the FISA, marks a significant moment. Criticism from influential voices like Davidson, alongside political pressures from figures such as Greene, underscores deep divisions and the challenging balancing act between ensuring national security and safeguarding privacy rights. As the House moves forward with the RISAA, the absence of the anticipated amendment concerning third-party data brokers has accentuated concerns over privacy and the legislative process concerning surveillance laws.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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