Senate Punts FISA Reform Bill For At Least 77 Days

from the punting-surveillance dept

Last week, we were perplexed as to why House Democrats had agreed to an extension of NSA/FBI surveillance powers for a President they keep insisting is incompetent and vindictive against anyone he dislikes. At the same time, we couldn’t figure out why Republicans were so keen to support it at the same time they were insisting that those same powers were used by the “deep state” to spy on the President’s own campaign. After it passed, President Trump hinted that he might veto it anyway, and now with the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing, the Senate has agreed to punt on the issue for the time being, extending the FISA authorities for 77 days, with a promise of debating real reform in the interim:

The Senate on Monday unanimously adopted a short-term extension of key federal surveillance programs that expired on Sunday night ? a move that allows the chamber to more rapidly consider legislation addressing the economic impacts of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scrapped an initial procedural vote Monday night on a House-passed bill that would reauthorize now-expired provisions of the 2015 USA Freedom Act and alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Instead, McConnell and his leadership team worked out a deal with civil libertarian hard-liners who oppose that House bill, including Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), on a 77-day extension of the surveillance powers.

Of course, we’ve gone through this before, with extensions being agreed to along with promises of time to debate the issues… and the debate almost never shows up. Instead, we get down to the very last minute again, and something gets shoved through. In this case, given that everyone’s attention is really needed in dealing with the pandemic, this seems like a reasonable move, however. I do hope that there actually is a serious debate on the need for these FISA surveillance authorities at some point though.

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