- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The House Rules Committee on Tuesday evening advanced a bipartisan agreement to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, sending it to the House floor for a full vote with less two legislative days before key surveillance provisions are set to expire.

It is unclear when the measure will face scrutiny from lawmakers on the House floor.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle reached an agreement Tuesday afternoon after hours of negotiation to reauthorize three FISA provisions ahead of a March 15 expiration.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, and Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, both said the proposed FISA reforms were not perfect, but a step in the right direction.

“This bill doesn’t go far enough, but it does represent real reform,” Mr. Jordan told the Rules Committee.

Proposed changes to the FISA process include:

⦁ eliminating the metadata program that allowed the National Security Agency to secretly collect phone and Internet information of millions of Americans;

⦁ a one-time historic review of all decisions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) since its inception in 1977;

⦁ requiring the government to disclose all significant decisions within 180 days;

⦁ an Amicus would be appointed to represent the subject of a warrant and counter the FBI’s allegations in political cases;

⦁ making a false statement to the FISC would be punishable by an 8-year prison sentence, and

⦁ requiring a transcript for all FISC hearings. ⦁ the FBI must establish a compliance office and appoint a compliance officer to ensure the FBI is following bureau procedures; and

⦁ the attorney general must approve in writing any FISA warrant for political officeholder and candidates.

Rep. Norma Torres, California Democrat and a Rules member, bristled at the attorney general signing off on warrants for political candidates, saying she doesn’t trust Attorney General William P. Barr.

“I fully agree with you that Mr. Barr is not to be trusted. He will not be the attorney general forever. We must write legislation for whoever the attorney general is,” Mr. Nadler shot back.

House negotiations did not include the Senate, so it is unclear what impact that will have on the measure. The Senate has not yet brokered a deal, but on Tuesday morning Sens. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, and Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, offered a bipartisan proposal.

One senator, Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, slammed the House proposal, saying it doesn’t go far enough to reform a controversial FISA provision known as Section 215, which allows authorities to collect GPS and cell-site location information without a warrant.

That provision is known as the roving wiretap provision because it allows law enforcement to wiretap a phone not listed in a warrant. Law enforcement supports the measure because terror suspects often rely on burner phones when they suspect authorities are bearing down.

“The FISA bill posted by the House Rules Committee includes provisions sought by reformers, but falls far short of the meaningful protections for Americans’ rights that members from both parties have demanded,” Mr. Wyden said in a statement.

The House deal came together over the past few days as talks between leadership and rank-and-file members pushed forward in both parties. Even the administration got involved as Mr. Barr met with House Republicans Monday night.

House Republicans were said to have submitted a counteroffer to Democrats on Tuesday morning and was said to have been brokered in a discussion on the floor between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, and his counterpart, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

The secret court has been targeted by Republicans for reform following revelations of FBI abuses during the Trump-Russia collusion probe and the bureau’s spying on Trump campaign figure Carter Page. But liberal Democrats also want to curb the government’s power to spy on Americans.

The FBI and Justice Department, as well as hawkish Republican lawmakers, extol FISA as critical to combatting terrorism and other foreign threats.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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