Roughly three months after Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his lengthy report detailing abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the FBI and DOJ in their efforts to obtain warrants to spy on now-President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team, the law itself is coming up for renewal — and there could be some big changes on the horizon.
According to a Wednesday report from the Washington Examiner, the House of Representatives has worked out a bipartisan bill that would reform FISA — and even Attorney General Bill Barr has expressed his support for it.
Barr’s stamp of approval
It was only a week ago that Barr met with Republican leaders to urge them to refrain from tinkering with FISA; instead, the attorney general requested that lawmakers simply renew the law as-is, with reforms to be made internally at the DOJ by Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray. But in a statement Wednesday, Barr seemed to walk back that request, expressing support for the House’s reform bill, which he said “contains an array of new requirements and compliance provisions that will protect against abuse and misuse.”
“I have reviewed the House FISA bill and support its passage,” he wrote. “I am pleased that the bill contains a number of provisions Director Wray and I put forward to address past failures, including compliance failures that the Inspector General has identified for us in his recent audit work.”
Barr said he and Wray “will promulgate additional, implementing rules that advance these reforms.”
“It is of the utmost [importance] that the Department’s attorneys and investigators always work in a manner consistent with the highest professional standards, and this overall package will help ensure the integrity of the FISA process and protect against future abuses going forward,” the AG added, according to the Examiner. “This legislation deserves broad bipartisan support.”
A bipartisan breakthrough
The White House didn’t respond to the Examiner‘s request for comment about whether Trump himself supports the reform bill, but several of his allies, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), have come forward to applaud it, according to the Examiner. The Republican said in a statement that the reform will “ensure that the intelligence community can keep our country safe without compromising Americans’ civil liberties.”
“The American public deserves a government that is protecting them, not compromising their civil liberties and constitutional rights,” McCarthy added. “I am proud that House Republicans and Democrats could come together and agree on the necessity of these important reforms.”
Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has touted the bill, suggesting in a statement Tuesday that the proposed reforms will increase “transparency and accountability” in the FISA process and protect the privacy of Americans, the Examiner reported.
Is it enough?
Of course, not everybody is pleased with the new measure. An unlikely alliance seems to have formed between select Democrats and several members of the House Freedom Caucus, which suggested that the proposed reforms won’t do enough to prevent future abuse of American citizens, according to the Examiner.
“[I]f the government can misuse this system to spy on a presidential campaign, they can surely do it to any other American citizen,” the Freedom Caucus wrote in an official statement posted to its Twitter account on Thursday.
The bill must pass the Senate before it makes its way to the president’s desk.