Republicans Divided Over Controversial Surveillance Bill

( – House Republicans passed a bill Friday to reauthorize the law called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act just days after they blocked a similar effort, much to the chagrin of former President Donald Trump. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee had blasted House Speaker Mike Johnson earlier last week for not pushing back more forcefully on the law.

“KILL FISA,” Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social.

The controversial part of the FISA law, section 702, allows U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor overseas and foreign communications without a warrant. For critics, the problem is that these communications sometimes involve American citizens, and they want U.S. authorities to have to get a warrant before spying on Americans.

Speaker Johnson seems to have radically altered his views on FISA after a quick meeting with proponents from the intelligence sphere. With his backing, the Republican-controlled House voted to reauthorize the controversial law by 273-147 on April 12th.

Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz was unhappy with Speaker Johnson’s reversal. He said that until “twenty minutes ago,” Speaker Johnson understood the problems with warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.

Johnson responded by saying he changed his mind based on being better educated about the need for the law. He said that when he was a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he “saw all of the abuses of the FBI,” which he said were “terrible” and frequent. But when became House Speaker, Johnson claimed, he was given a private briefing from intelligence officials that convinced him of the “necessity of Section 702 of FISA.” This gave him a “different perspective” on national security, he said.

The issues around FISA have GOP lawmakers divided and at each other’s throats. One faction thinks the law gives spymasters way too much leeway to spy on American citizens without a warrant or a court order. The other side, which emerged victorious with the House passage of the law’s renewal bill on Friday, April 12th, thinks American espionage would “go dark” if the law were not renewed. Those Republicans expressed frustration at Donald Trump’s earlier successful efforts to derail the reauthorization bill before Friday’s successful vote.

The Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to take up the measure within the next week or so.

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