Pelosi makes 'chilling' remark that 9/11 might have been prevented by FISA warrantless spying

 April 13, 2024

The civil liberties and constitutional rights of the American people suffered a setback on Friday when the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for another two years.

Adding insult to injury was an assertion by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that FISA's allowance of warrantless spying might have prevented the deadly tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to The American Prospect.

The disturbing remark from Pelosi came as she vehemently argued against a proposed amendment that would have required federal law enforcement to first obtain a warrant -- as is nominally required by the Fourth Amendment -- before using the massive FISA database to surveil American citizens.

Amendment to add warrant requirement to FISA spying fails

The American Prospect observed that an unlikely alliance of conservative and progressive members of Congress supported a proposed amendment to require warrants for federal law enforcement agents to use FISA to spy on American citizens -- an amendment that was opposed by leadership in both parties, even though they'd previously signaled support for such a requirement.

The outlet reported, "Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who had Intelligence Committee experience in the past, also reversed course and even went so far as to deliver a chilling speech on the House floor during the debate, claiming that Section 702 needed to pass because it could have prevented 9/11."

Unfortunately, in large part because of pressure exerted by the leadership in both parties, the amendment ultimately failed with a tie vote of 212-212.

Pelosi says warrantless spying could have prevented 9/11 attacks

During her remarks on the House floor, former Speaker Pelosi dubiously asserted that other reforms that were included in the FISA reauthorization bill "strengthen our case for civil liberties. Some of them improvements on existing law. Some of them new, new provisions in the law to protect the civil liberties of the American people."

In her view, however, the warrant requirement amendment "seriously undermines our ability to protect the national security. And I urge our colleagues to vote against it. If this -- I don't have the time right now, but if Members want to know, I'll tell you how we could have been saved from 9/11 if we didn't have to have the additional warrants."

Uncertain future for FISA reauthorization bill after House passage

ABC News reported that, with the warrant requirement amendment brushed aside, the House proceeded to reauthorize FISA, which was set to expire next Friday, with a bipartisan vote of 273-174.

Normally, the bill would now move to the Senate for consideration but, because of a procedural move by one of the Republican critics of the legislation, the measure will now be held in limbo until another vote is held next week to specifically release it to the upper chamber of Congress.

Notably, the FISA reauthorization bill almost didn't make it to the floor for a debate as a group of conservative lawmakers voted against a procedural rule on Wednesday that forced GOP leadership to make some minor tweaks to the legislation -- such as reducing the reauthorization period from five years to two years -- before bringing it up again on Friday.

It is unknown how the legislation will fare once it eventually reaches the Senate, as The American Prospect noted that there is a similar unlikely alliance of conservative and progressive critics in the deliberative chamber who have vowed to make changes, potentially including adding a warrant requirement.

That said, President Joe Biden has already said that he will sign the bill to reauthorize FISA as soon as it reaches his desk, according to ABC News, even as he has also said that the surveillance program will continue to operate for at least another year even if Congress ultimately fails to reauthorize it.

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