Leaks from FISA material could lead Congress to cut off program
A key government surveillance tool set to expire in 2017 could be jeopardized by a string of intelligence leaks that have damaged the Trump administration, and led to questions about whether federal officials can protect the information they collect.It does appear that the Obama administration has abused this authority in order to attack domestic political opponents. The leaks are an egregious violation of the law and there appears to be no investigation of those responsible for them.
Top members of the House Intelligence Committee are warning they won't renew a provision in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act until they get to the bottom of how classified information identifying Trump administration officials was leaked to the media earlier this year.
"We are not going to reauthorize these surveillance programs if the American people are not satisfied that their security is going to be safeguarded," Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said recently on Fox News.
Section 702 of the FISA law gives the Intelligence Community the authority to eavesdrop on communications of foreigners outside the United States.
The law is aimed at giving U.S. intelligence officials the tools needed to thwart terror plots and other threats, but it also grants authority to monitor American citizens swept up in the communication with foreigners who are under U.S. surveillance.
Ousted National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was picked up by U.S. intelligence officials when he spoke with Russian government officials after the election but before the new Trump administration took office.
Flynn's name was exposed and leaked to the media, one of several disclosures that have infuriated Republican lawmakers who would normally not hesitate to renew the 702 provision in the FISA law.
The provision may have also been used to target President Trump's transition office after the election, some Republicans believe. Republicans believe the leaks were carried out for political purposes by Obama administration officials and holdovers aiming to damage the Trump administration.
As a result, Republicans are threatening to block the 702 provision.