It’s Time To Reauthorize FISA

Threats To The United States And Our Interests From Terrorism And Foreign Espionage Have Not Taken A Break During The Pandemic, And The Senate Should Pass The Compromise FISA Extension Negotiated By The Attorney General And House Republicans


SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “[A]mid the pandemic, we cannot lose sight of the other threats we still face as well. The challenges that we faced before COVID-19 began to spread from Wuhan, China are still with us today, alongside this awful virus. There are terrorist cells, hostile foreign intelligence services, and adversaries all over the world who would love nothing more than for the United States to apply social distancing to our presence on the world stage as well…. ISIS, al Qaeda, and Haqqani terrorists continue to operate from Afghan territory. Over in Moscow, Putin’s regime continues to threaten American interests along with international security…. And Russian intelligence is not alone in targeting America. China’s efforts to steal government and industry secrets are unmatched. Countering these kinds of hostile activities is a key job of our intelligence community. So is stopping terrorist attacks against our homeland.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 5/07/2020)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “So [this] week, the Senate will turn back to reauthorizing the critical authorities in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The House-passed legislation we’ll take up is not a blanket reauthorization of FISA. It’s a careful update designed to provide greater accountability for the ways these authorities are exercised. It will increase transparency in the FISA process and respond to the shameful abuses of 2016 while preserving the toolbox that professionals use to defend us.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 5/07/2020)


Attorney General Barr And House Republicans Negotiated The Reforms In The FISA Reauthorization Bill And The House Passed It In March With Bipartisan Support

“The House [in March] passed a long-term extension of surveillance powers  ... The bill, negotiated by the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees and which received the backing of Republicans such as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, passed 278-136.” (Politico, 3/11/2020)

“President Donald Trump instructed House members and Attorney General William Barr to try to reach a deal on some reforms to a critical national security surveillance law …” (“Trump Tells House GOP And Barr To Strike A Deal On FISA Reforms,” CNN, 3/3/2020)

  • “Barr, who met with House Republicans in McCarthy’s office earlier this week, also made a number of tweaks to get the administration’s support, which he announced earlier on Wednesday.” (Politico, 3/11/2020)

ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR: “I have reviewed the House FISA bill and support its passage.  The bill contains an array of new requirements and compliance provisions that will protect against abuse and misuse in the future while ensuring that this critical tool is available when appropriate to protect the safety of the American people.” (Attorney General Barr, Press Release, 3/11/2020)


Unfortunately Democrat Leaders In The House Left Town Without Passing A Short-Term Extension And Allowed These Critical FISA Authorities To Expire

House Democrats left the capital on Friday … without taking up a Senate bill to temporarily revive three expired F.B.I. surveillance tools for terrorism and espionage investigations, ensuring that the laws will remain lapsed at least until the Senate returns …” (“House Departs Without Vote to Extend Expired F.B.I. Spy Tools,” The New York Times, 3/27/2020)


House Republicans: ‘This Legislation Makes Strong Reforms That Will Protect The American People From Government Overreach While Continuing To Protect The Homeland From Terrorist Threats’ ‘This Bill Would Improve The Civil Liberty Protections Of U.S. Citizens’

HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADER KEVIN McCARTHY (R-CA): “This bipartisan legislation addresses the need for greater accuracy and accountability in the FISA process. It does not damage the legitimate authorities our intelligence community relies on to keep us safe, but it does strengthen protections for civil liberties. Among its many reforms, this legislation: Increases the punishment for unauthorized disclosure of FISA applications; authorizes an amicus to be appointed to cases involving political activity; and enhances oversight by Congress and creates new Offices of Compliance. These reforms are an astonishing accomplishment in a period of divided government. But that just tells you how important FISA reform — and checks and balances — truly are.” (Leader McCarthy, Press Release, 3/11/2020)

“Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, sought to convince fellow Republicans that the overhaul provisions were sufficient to prevent future politically targeted actions under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He stressed that if the provisions don’t succeed, it’s likely the intelligence tools in question will ultimately go away.” (Roll Call, 3/11/2020)

  • HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): “H.R. 6172 is the first step in imposing reforms to address these gross abuses and restore accountability in the FISA process… This legislation makes strong reforms that will protect the American people from government overreach while continuing to protect the homeland from terrorist threats. Close Congressional oversight of the FISA process, which will be enhanced significantly by this bill, must continue in order to prevent future abuses. … I urge support of H.R. 6172 …” (Rep. Nunes, Congressional Record, H1633, 3/11/2020

HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER JIM JORDAN (R-OH): “I rise in support of the reform legislation…. [T]his bill is an improvement over what currently exists, over the status quo. …  This bill would add several requirements to ensure a FISA application is complete and accurate. It requires the Attorney General to sign off on a FISA investigation of an elected official or candidate for Federal office. It forces the Justice Department to fire anyone who knowingly hides information from the FISA court. And the bill enhances congressional oversight of the FISA process. It also allows the FISA court to appoint an amicus in cases involving political activities of a U.S. person…. I hope the appointment of the amicus will help the FISA court to protect the civil liberties of U.S. persons. Like I said, I think we can and should do more, and I look forward to working with the chairman toward that end. But right now, this bill would improve the civil liberty protections of U.S. citizens.” (Rep. Jordan, Congressional Record, H1628-1629, 3/11/2020)


‘China’s Spies Are On The Offensive’: China Has Stepped Up Its Efforts To Steal US Research And Secrets, Turn US Intelligence Agents, Hack Sensitive Information, And Use Its ‘Thousand Talents Plan’ To Obtain American Research And Expertise For ‘Its Own Economic And Military Gain’

“China’s Spies Are on the Offensive … [R]ecent cases suggest … that the intelligence war is escalating—that China has increased both the scope and the sophistication of its efforts to steal secrets from the U.S. ‘The fact that we have caught three at the same time is telling of how focused China is on the U.S.,’ John Demers, the head of the National Security Division at the Justice Department, which brought the charges against [three former U.S intelligence officers who were paid by Chinese agents to hand over sensitive information] told [The Atlantic]. ‘If you think about what it takes to co-opt three people, you start to appreciate the actual extent of their efforts. There may be people we haven’t caught, and then you have to acknowledge that probably a small percentage of the people who’ve been approached ever go as far as these three did.’” (“China’s Spies Are on the Offensive,” The Atlantic, 8/26/2019)

  • “These recent cases provide just a small glimpse of the growing intelligence war that is playing out in the shadows of the U.S.-China struggle for global dominance, and of the aggressiveness and skillfulness with which China is waging it. As China advances economically and technologically, its spy services are keeping pace: Their intelligence officers are more sophisticated, the tools at their disposal are more powerful, and they are engaged in what appears to be an intensifying array of espionage operations that have their American counterparts on the defensive. China’s efforts aimed at former U.S. intelligence officers are just one part of a Chinese campaign that U.S. officials say also includes cyberattacks against U.S. government databases and companies, stealing trade secrets from the private sector, using venture-capital investment to acquire sensitive technology, and targeting universities and research institutions.” (“China’s Spies Are on the Offensive,” The Atlantic, 8/26/2019)

“For decades, China has waged an espionage war with the United States, exploiting America's comparatively open society and free-market economy to steal critical information, trade secrets and technology tools. But as the coronavirus, officially termed COVID-19, continues to assault the globe – Beijing is upping its spy game on U.S. soil with a focus on manipulating the narrative, officials and experts say. The primary focus now, according to several current and former intelligence officials interviewed by Fox News, is attempting to control the disease narrative inside the U.S. and cast the blame game anywhere but Beijing. One U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, underscored that the Chinese focus inside the U.S. remains centered on technology theft, military readiness and minimizing the blowback.” (“China Ups Its Spy Game On US Soil As It Bids To Control Coronavirus Narrative,” Fox News, 4/21/2020)

  • “The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are preparing to issue a warning that China’s most skilled hackers and spies are working to steal American research in the crash effort to develop vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus…. A draft of the forthcoming public warning … says China is seeking ‘valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing.’ It focuses on cybertheft and action by “nontraditional actors,” a euphemism for researchers and students the Trump administration says are being activated to steal data from inside academic and private laboratories.” (“U.S. to Accuse China of Trying to Hack Vaccine Data, as Virus Redirects Cyberattacks,” The New York Times, 5/10/2020)

“Spying, meddling and even torture allegations are riling China’s relations with some of the world’s top democracies just as Beijing seeks to convince nations that its 5G technology can be trusted. In Australia, it was reported [in November 2019] that China offered a Melbourne-based car dealer a bribe to run as a parliamentary candidate before he was found dead in March. The previous day, media reports in selected Australian outlets said that a man who spied for China in Hong Kong and Taiwan offered intelligence information to Australia and wanted political asylum. On Monday… Xuehua ‘Ed’ Peng -- who became a naturalized American citizen in 2012 -- pleaded guilty to a U.S. criminal charge of spying for Beijing’s security service. Last week, the U.K. accused China of torturing a former employee of its consulate in Hong Kong while seeking information about whether the British government was supporting pro-democracy protests. And now the Czech Republic’s top intelligence agency is also warning that China increased efforts to recruit agents and destabilize state institutions last year. The incidents play into fears that China is becoming bolder in undermining democracies under President Xi Jinping, one of the country’s most powerful leaders in decades.” (“Chinese Spies Spook Democracies From U.S. to Europe to Australia,” Bloomberg News, 11/25/2019)

SENATE PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS: “Some countries, however, seek to exploit America’s openness to advance their own national interests. The most aggressive of them has been China. China primarily does this through its more than 200 talent recruitment plans—the most prominent of which is the Thousand Talents Plan. Launched in 2008, the Thousand Talents Plan incentivizes individuals engaged in research and development in the United States to transmit the knowledge and research they gain here to China in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space, and other incentives. China unfairly uses the American research and expertise it obtains for its own economic and military gain. In recent years, federal agencies have discovered talent recruitment plan members who downloaded sensitive electronic research files before leaving to return to China, submitted false information when applying for grant funds, and willfully failed to disclose receiving money from the Chinese government on U.S. grant applications.” (“Threats to the U.S. Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Plans,” U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 11/2019)


Terrorists Haven’t Taken A Break: ‘ISIS Exploits Iraq’s Coronavirus Lockdown To Step Up Attacks,’ ‘4 Arrested For Alleged ISIS Plans To Attack U.S. Bases In Germany,’ ‘Al Qaeda Has Settled Down And Is Again Intensely Focused On Attacking The West’

“Islamic State militants in Iraq are exploiting the coronavirus lockdown to intensify their attacks, striking more frequently and at times with more sophistication than in recent years. In the northern city of Kirkuk, a suicide bomber walked calmly toward an intelligence headquarters last week before detonating his load in a fireball. Days later, ISIS militants carried out a nighttime ambush on a government-affiliated militia checkpoint north of Baghdad. More attacks near Baghdad and in Kirkuk followed.” (“ISIS Exploits Iraq’s Coronavirus Lockdown To Step Up Attacks,” The Washington Post, 5/08/2020)

“German authorities say police have arrested four suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who were planning an attack on American military facilities. Federal prosecutors said the suspects were arrested by tactical police units early Wednesday at various locations in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia…. Prosecutors said the men joined ISIS in January 2019 and were instructed to form a cell in Germany. They reportedly first planned to carry out an attack in Tajikistan but later shifted their target to Germany, including U.S. Air Force bases in the country and a person they deemed critical of Islam. Throughout, they are alleged to have been in contact with two high-ranking ISIS figures in Syria and Afghanistan.” (“4 Arrested For Alleged ISIS Plans To Attack U.S. Bases In Germany,” The Associated Press, 4/15/2020)

“Al Qaeda Is Ready to Attack You Again … To capitalize on the opportunities that the Syrian civil war has presented to al Qaeda, the group began moving significant assets from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Levant in September 2014. This shift in the center of the group’s gravity constitutes a major change and one with implications still not fully understood by counterterrorism officials worldwide. After two turbulent decades following its most spectacular mission, al Qaeda has settled down and is again intensely focused on attacking the West.” (“Al Qaeda Is Ready to Attack You Again,” Foreign Policy, 9/04/2019)

  • “Led by veterans with decades of experience at al Qaeda’s highest levels, these al Qaeda loyalists have established new groups, chief among them Tanzim Huras al-Din, whose name means ‘Guardians of Religion Organization.’ Guided by new instructions from Zawahiri and others, they have pivoted back to the elite vanguard model more traditionally espoused in bin Laden’s days … According to four separate sources, Tanzim Huras al-Din figures have repeatedly discussed the value of striking the West from Syria during broader Islamist gatherings in recent months.” (“Al Qaeda Is Ready to Attack You Again,” Foreign Policy, 9/04/2019)



Related Issues: Homeland Security, ISIL, War on Terror, National Security, China, Al Qaeda