Texas Lawmaker Says Not Reauthorizing FISA Is ‘Extremely Dangerous’

Amid the ongoing tension about reauthorizing a controversial surveillance bill, a Texas lawmaker has said that not renewing the provision would be “extremely dangerous.”

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)—which allows government agencies to collect information, without a warrant, on foreign nationals who pose threats—has divided legislators in recent weeks, leading to a failure to conduct even initial procedural votes. Critics of the bill point out that it allows warrantless monitoring of American citizens’ communication with people in other countries — citing the use of FISA to spy on former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

However, on Friday, the House finally voted to pass the measure, which now heads to the Senate for further deliberation.

Days before the approval, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed support for renewing the legislation, as he shared on CNN’s “The Situation Room” on April 10.

Preceding his comments, CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked if the lives of Americans are “at risk” if FISA is not reauthorized—a sentiment that had recently been shared by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Christopher Wray. McCaul replied that he “100% agree[s]” with the agency director.

The Texas lawmaker explained that he used to work very closely with the FBI on cases involving FISA warrants, when he was “a federal prosecutor after 9/11 on counterterrorism.” He said that, through this act, “we stopped a lot of bad things from happening,” warning that “American people [will be] in jeopardy” if FISA is not reauthorized.

McCaul further stated that “the world is actually becoming more and more dangerous,” citing the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East and Iranian terror threats. He also said it is “the wrong time to play politics with this.”

Blizter then asked about the potential compromises that some opponents to the bill have said they are open to negotiating, including revisions that would reauthorize FISA for two years instead of five. The host inquired as to whether the lawmaker would support these revisions. McCaul indicated that he would rather reauthorize the bill with a shorter tenure than allow it to expire.

On April 12, one week before FISA is set to expire, the House of Representatives approved a version of the measure with only a two-year contract, flipping some concerned GOP members to change their votes. Another provision to require warrants to access citizen communications, suggested by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), failed to make it into the final version approved by the House.

However, according to Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), a forced procedural vote in the House has prompted one last consideration of the FISA renewal that will take place on Monday — giving lawmakers who are concerned about misuse of FISA one more chance to fix the problem.