". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


‘Terrorism Will Take Place’: Pompeo Warns of Threat to National Security without FISA

April 11, 2024

On Wednesday, a group of Republican hardliners in the House broke from the GOP majority and blocked a procedural vote from going forward to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and numerous Republican lawmakers say that while FISA is in need of reform to protect citizens against government overreach, it is also a critical tool in maintaining national security.

Much of the controversy surrounds Section 702 of FISA, which allows the federal government to conduct surveillance of foreign actors on foreign soil who have suspected links to terrorism without a warrant, even when the communication involves an American citizen. Privacy hawks within the group of 19 Republicans who torpedoed the bill say their opposition was due to their proposed amendments not being allowed to be brought to the floor, particularly one that would require the government to obtain a warrant if the surveillance involved an American.

But a chorus of GOP congressmen questioned the wisdom of halting the measure.

“Here’s what frustrates me — is that the same members who are taking down this rule are vociferously advocating for reforming FISA,” Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) told Fox News. “There are 56 major reforms of FISA 702 that are embedded in the base bill. I understand they don’t think those 56 reforms go far enough. … But by taking down the rule and by making it impossible to pass this reform base bill, they’re gonna get nothing.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) warned that “We will go blind on April 20” if Section 702 if FISA is allowed to expire on April 19. He continued, “[FISA] is not spying on Americans. It is collecting foreigners’ data that are abroad that represent a very small group of 250,000 who are a national security threat. Unfortunately, the proposed warrant would render our ability to see communications with people who … are national security threats like the head of ISIS, head of Hamas, head of Al Qaeda, in an unworkable structure.”

While acknowledging the privacy worries that are tied up in FISA, former CIA Director and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also voiced concern about the surveillance tool being allowed to expire during Wednesday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.”

“[A]s good conservatives, [we] worry about our government and its overreach,” he noted. “Those are very reasonable concerns. The question is, how do you balance that? How do you get that right? … This particular provision, Section 702 of [FISA], saved hundreds of American lives during my time as CIA director. … Its purpose is to collect intelligence on foreigners, not Americans. … [I]f you [are] speaking to someone abroad who’s a bad guy, it could collect [an] American’s data, too. So I get the concern that flows from that. It was abused against President Trump personally. It’s been abused other times by folks who go and look at what their girlfriends were up to. … Those are governmental failures. But I pray that we won’t throw out the really important collection to solve that problem, because I think you can solve the problem through the dozens of reforms that are here.”

Pompeo went on to detail some of the reforms that are included in the current bill.

“These FBI reforms that are in this bill will put criminal penalties in place for someone who does precisely what I just spoke about. It transcribes the court hearings so that members of Congress can get oversight. It ties compensation of FBI officials to the failures to process correctly any Americans whose information was collected, it reduced by 90% the number of people who can actually have access to any American’s information. So we have significantly sought to address the very concerns that the American people rightfully have.”

“[T]here will be terrorist acts that take place that could have been prevented if this act is not renewed,” Pompeo underscored. “That’s not just hyperbole. … I hope everyone will acknowledge that we also need a government that is chasing bad guys around the world to keep us all safe. And I pray that we’ll continue to be able to have the tools to permit them to do so.”

“[W]hat I hear you saying,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins responded, “is … we can’t throw out the very tools that are needed to keep this nation safe. But we do need to throw out those who would misuse those tools.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Pompeo concurred. “… [W]e saw it with the IRS. We saw it with the FBI, the folks that have misused these tools. It’s been done against people like you and I, evangelical Christian conservatives, Republicans. … For me, it is very emotional to make sure we get this stuff right, to create a structure that can protect against this government abuse. … Evil walks the earth, but I think this is a big step in the right direction that will protect every American, including those of us who hold conservative Christian viewpoints.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told Fox News on Thursday that “we have a path” to renewing FISA despite Wednesday’s setback, without describing what that would entail.

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.