Freedom Caucus Conservatives Break from Trump, Want More Surveillance Reform

Some legislators want more privacy protections from unwarranted snooping of U.S. citizens.



The White House and several prominent Senate Republicans want to keep the scope of federal surveillance powers intact, but there's a rebellion afoot. The House Freedom Caucus has said it does not want to renew some federal snooping powers unless there's reform that better protects Americans from unwarranted data collection.

Earlier this month, such Republican senators as Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona, and Susan Collins of Maine, among others, announced they were introducing a bill to make permanent some temporary surveillance powers granted by amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The White House has formally declared its support for this bill.

The powers under dispute fall under Section 702 of FISA amendments. Section 702 is intended to allow the National Security Agency (NSA) to snoop on the communications of foreign targets. But this surveillance often ends up drawing in data and records and communications from United States citizens as well, all collected without a warrant.

While there's a "minimization" process intended to protect U.S. citizens' privacy and due process rights, there's also an "unmasking" procedure government officials have used to investigate domestic crimes beyond threats of terrorism and espionage. Such a process appears to run afoul of the Fourth Amendment's protections, and civil rights advocates across the political spectrum want to reform Section 702 to protect against these "backdoor" searches.

Section 702 wll expire at the end of the year if Congress does nothing (or is unable to get enough votes to pass something). So this short announcement from House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is a warning to President Donald Trump, Sen. Cotton, and others that the party is not in total agreement:

Government surveillance activities under the FISA Amendments Act have violated Americans' constitutionally protected rights. We oppose any reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act that does not include substantial reforms to the government's collection and use of Americans' data.

If this conflict within the party sounds familiar, it's because it played out after Edward Snowden's leaks too. At that time, several privacy-minded Republicans resisted efforts to renew a part of the Patriot Act that was being used to justify the mass collection of Americans' private phone call and online activity metadata.

The end result of that fight was that part of the Patriot Act was allowed to sunset and was replaced by the USA Freedom Act, which formalized but also put some restrictions on how the government was able to access that metadata.

I noted earlier in the week that the pro-surveillance senators who support the unchanged renewal of Section 702 were in a difficult situation because they did not have a lot of leverage: All opponents have to do to make them fail is nothing at all. This warning by the Freedom Caucus, which has about three dozen members, will let the Senate and the White House know that Republican control over Congress doesn't mean reauthorization is going to be easy. This may be the first step in a USA Freedom Act–style compromise.

NEXT: Shakespeare and the Assassins

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Can’t it be both free stock art AND 1990s science fiction RPG manual cover?

    1. I miss the 90s. *sigh*

    2. I’m pretty sure that’s a distinction without a difference.

  2. Cotton, Rubio, McCain. Three assholes on the five-assed monkey.

  3. All opponents have to do to make them fail is nothing at all.

    Congress is expert at doing nothing at all, but unfortunately they do it at all the wrong times.

  4. Well this is pretty god damn ironic considering this section is the exact part that resulted in Trump officials being unmasked and leaked which directly led to the current idiotic witch hunt being ‘investigated’ by a special council.

    Yeah, this section needs to be axed not made permanent. It’s clear it’s in direct opposition to our freedom and privacy. Period. It will turn this country into a banana republic (if it isn’t one already) since it clearly allows the deep state to leak information that they absolutely should not have on their political enemies.

    1. Oh, and judging from the assholes who want to make this permanent I’m pretty sure they see how well it fucked over Trump and they’re chomping at the bit to use this on an incoming Democrat President.

    2. Mmmm. Bananas.

        1. No.

          1. 🙁

    3. It’s fascinating how the subject uses not only the same bullshit excuses, but the exact same wording, as both the president and the greasy flapping heads on FOX News.

      1. It’s fascinating how your comments can be so devoid of anything approaching a non-fallacious argument, let alone a spark of understanding in why it might be a problem that the government can record, and leak, any conversation that involves a foreign entity. And before you squeak out some tepid idiocy about the Trump team being engaged in some sort of plot, consider that nothing in any of the conversations the NSA intercepted involved any illegal activity, yet they were leaked because it provided a handy attack narrative to the left.

        Hillary Clinton has single-handedly turned the left against Russia as some emergent boogieman despite the fact that they were more than happy to work with the Russians for 8 years, up to and including approving deals that resulted in American uranium being used in Ukrainian and Russian reactors, and potentially bombs and missiles.

        Coincidence, or providence?

        Maybe you’ll understand it’s a problem when it’s used against Democrats in the near future, since it’s clear from the article that Republicans want to keep this article around for their own uses in the next elections. Did you see anyone on Fox mentioned that, one wonders, since you’re so knowledgeable about their content?

        1. No Democrat would be as fucking retarded as Donald Trump.

          Yes, there is no giant conspiracy. Trump is just that stupid. He’s going to get impeached because he is stupid. And why not?

          The people who spent eight years pissing themselves over Benghazi and then moved on to Seth Rich and Pizzagate and whatever the fuck get to shut their stupid faces now that Trump is being investigated by a real grown-up investigator for real grown-up crimes and coverups.

          The only mysteries that remain are a) how bad things will get and b) why people like you think sticking with Trump is a good move.

          1. So, you still can’t formulate a coherent argument. I’m never sure if you’re just trolling, or if you are sincerely an idiot. I guess there’s no rule that says it can’t be both since you’re a shit kicker from Oklahoma though, amiright?

            1. Is a coherent argument possible when my interlocutor is peddling debunked nutjob conspiracy theories? Is your Google broken or what?

              Check your goddamn facts. You don’t get a free pass because you believe certain things politically.

              1. If anything that should make formulating a convincing rebuttal easier.

                ‘That’s so dumb I can’t refute it’ is possibly the most nonsensical thought ever conceived by a human mind, more so even than ‘colorless green ideas sleep furiously.’

                1. Okay, what he said about Hillary and Russia is a big fat lie, and its debunking is easily searchable on this thing known as the internet. A brain capable of discerning reliable sources from rightwing conspiracy bullshit is all that’s required.

                2. If anything that should make formulating a convincing rebuttal easier.

                  50% of the replies to Tony being a prime example.

          2. Hillary is fucking retarded. She still cannot figure out why she lost.

            Gore advocates that CO2 is a dangerous gas, so he is clearing fucking retarded.

            Sanders is fucking retarded because he thinks socialism can work after over 100 years of proving him that socialism does not work.

    4. It is information they should not have on any American.

  5. I’m glad to see that the Freedom Caucus appears to have the balls to stand up for principle against Trump. Hopefully they can maintain this stance even when the inevitable political pressuring is directed their way.

    1. If they don’t, they’ve proven that they are absolutely useless for actual freedom no matter what their caucus is called. They already have one strike against them in going along with RINOCare, this could very well be strike two in very recent memory. My opinions on the matter not withstanding, the folks who elect these people don’t seem to have elected them to ‘go along’ with these proposals.

  6. “Earlier this month, such Republican senators as Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona, and Susan Collins of Maine, among others, announced they were introducing a bill to make permanent some temporary surveillance powers granted by amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).”

    Man we really dodged a bullet there with McCain didn’t we. I’m feeling better and better about not voting for either of the two of them in 2008.

    1. All we got was a hip version of John McCain. Were you asleep over the past eight years?

    1. Dear Director Coats:

      At the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s open hearing on June 7, 2017, I asked you the following question and requested a yes or no response: “Can the government use FISA Act Section 702 to collect communications it knows are entirely domestic.” You responded: “Not to my knowledge. It would be against the law.” After the hearing, in response to questions from reporters, the ODNI sent the following:

      “Section 702(b)(4) plainly states we ‘may not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States.’ The DNI interpreted Senator Wyden’s question to ask about this provision and answered accordingly.

      That was not my question. Please provide a public response to my question, as asked at the June 7, 2017, hearing.

      Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

      Ron Wyden

      1. Widen is a joke too. Domestic spying without a warrant is not against the law. It’s against the constitution- the founding principle of any law. Basic law school: constitution is supreme to legislative acts.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.