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On Tuesday night, the House Judiciary Committee will hear separate briefings from two intelligence chiefs—one who is currently serving and one who has previously—on proposed amendments to a contentious monitoring legislation.

As Congress continues to be divided over the reauthorization of a portion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), two individuals familiar with the situation have revealed that a number of experts, including former Trump administration DNI John Ratcliffe and current DNI Avril Haines, will be testifying before members of the Judiciary. Experts in national security say that keeping tabs on dangers is crucial, and the intelligence community uses the law as one tool to do just that.

Reauthorizing Section 702, a contentious FISA surveillance authority that aims to target foreigners abroad but has the potential to sweep in Americans’ data, is a legislative priority that lawmakers must address before the year ends.

New restrictions and safeguards for Section 702 are anticipated to be unveiled shortly by the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees in separate legislation. Also, a group of senators from both parties have introduced comprehensive legislation that would do away with data brokers selling customer information to law enforcement, among other things, and would also reform Section 702. These senators are Republican Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Andy Biggs of Arizona. (Within minutes of taking office, Biden’s administration voiced its opposition to the bicameral law.)

Both committees have been informed by current and former intelligence officials and have quietly educated their colleagues, many of whom will be voting on surveillance authority for the first time, in preparation for that discussion.

The Republican members of the two committees met secretly for months in an effort to reach a compromise. However, they disagree on whether a warrant is necessary to search data obtained under 702 for personal information belonging to Americans. They did, however, reach an agreement on increased sanctions and new reporting and auditing procedures.

Before joining the Trump administration, Ratcliffe was a member of the House Judiciary Committee and was one of the first to voice concerns about FISA abuse. Along with former South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, he was among the first to raise concerns about the procedures used to obtain surveillance warrants on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser whose connections to Russia formed the basis of the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Independently, the intelligence community’s inspector general discovered “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the government’s application to monitor Page, even though House Democrats initially dismissed the accusations of FISA abuse.

Even while the Page warrant has nothing to do with the FISA provision that needs reauthorization at the moment, Republicans have seized on it to argue that lawmakers should amend the eavesdropping legislation in its entirety.


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