RELEASE: Rep. Cloud Opposes FISA Reauthorization, Supports Amendment Requiring Warrant for Surveillance

Apr 12, 2024
Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX) once again opposed warrantless searches of American citizens, voting in favor of an amendment that would require warrants for surveillance of U.S. citizens under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Cloud also voted NO on the full FISA reauthorization bill, after efforts to protect Americans’ privacy rights fell short by just one vote.

The amendment vote followed weeks and months of debate in the House of Representatives, where House conservatives battled Congressional leadership and sought tougher protections for Americans against warrantless surveillance from the government. Under the current 702 FISA system, the government can surveil an American citizens’ electronic communications including emails, texts, phone calls, and cell phone data without a warrant under the guise of combating terrorist threats. The Judiciary Committee had released a version of FISA reauthorization containing strong reforms to the process, including the requirement for a warrant before surveillance, but House leadership stepped in and replaced the bill with a version maintaining authority for warrantless searches. This was in spite of the fact that FISA reauthorization is under the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction.  

There have been countless documented abuses of the FISA program in recent history, including against political organizations, faith groups, and more. Of course, many will remember one of the more publicized instances of FISA abuse, in which the intelligence community used FISA authority to surveil members of the 2016 Trump campaign based on faulty opposition research from the Hillary Clinton campaign.

While some in both the Republican conference and Democrat caucus pushed for a full five-year reauthorization of the FISA program that would still allow for warrantless searches, this raises grave privacy concerns and would violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Former Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) offered a bipartisan amendment with Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) that would’ve significantly changed Section 702, similar to the Judiciary Committee version supported by Rep. Cloud, requiring a warrant for surveillance of communications from U.S. citizens under the FISA program. As a strong supporter of privacy rights for American citizens, Rep. Cloud voted in favor of the amendment.

Unfortunately, the Biggs amendment failed by one vote, in a tie of 212-212 – and ultimately, full FISA reauthorization passed the House without the added requirement of a warrant. While conservatives did negotiate some favorable changes to the bill, including an amendment from Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), to require the FBI to provide a quarterly report on the number of U.S. person queries conducted each quarter, ultimately Rep. Cloud voted against final passage of the FISA reauthorization – as it did not go far enough to protect privacy rights.

Cloud released the following statement:

“This is a sad day for America, as once again, the institution supposed to be the ‘people’s house’ has traded the people’s liberty under the guise of safety. This is wrong, and I fear Washington has completely lost the concept that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is not optional. Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, you have the right to privacy against intrusion from your government – and as a member of Congress, our first job should be to protect and defend your liberties. Sadly, the House failed to do that today.

As I have always said, I will never vote for bills that allow the government to violate your rights and surveil citizens without proper authority. This is a red line for me, and frankly, it should be a red line for any elected official. Moving forward, I will continue the fight to protect your privacy and continue pushing Washington to change the way they treat the Constitution. It is not a suggestion. It’s the law and the limit.”

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