Amidst the political chaos and confusion, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has not lost sight of what is important. He is threatening to filibuster over the possible reauthorization of federal surveillance powers he feels are illegal and unconstitutional.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) permits the U.S. deep state to perform covert surveillance of non-U.S. persons of interest who are not residing within the country. Much to the chagrin of Paul and other civil libertarians, Section 702 was reauthorized in 2012 with no changes occurring to the FISA Amendments Act.
“We’ll do anything we can to try and stop it, and that includes filibuster,” Paul said during an interview with the Independent Journal Review.
Paul plans to reach across the aisle in order to achieve the necessary votes to halt reauthorization. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has been a long-standing opponent of unwarranted surveillance, and Paul expects him to come up big as the two men work to build opposition to FISA Section 702.
Garnering support from fellow Republicans will be a harder sell for Paul. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is pushing to make these temporary surveillance powers permanent, and Paul admits that he is not likely to receive any support from the Trump administration.
“On the other hand, most of the people [Trump has] appointed […] are great advocates of unlimited power for surveillance agencies,” Paul said.
Additionally, members of the intelligence community are crying foul at Paul’s request for simple constitutional fidelity as well.
“Failure to reauthorize Section 702 will deprive the intelligence community of a critical tool to combat global proliferation efforts at a time when North Korea is working day and night to build a nuclear-tipped ICBM capable of hitting the United States,” said Dean Boyd, the Central Intelligence Agency’s Director of Public Affairs, to IJR. “Section 702 is not a ‘nice-to-have.’ It is a ‘must-have.’”
As usual, the deck is stacked against Paul as he tries to achieve common sense reform. He will have the rest of the year to fight reauthorization. FISA Section 702 will need to be reauthorized before its Dec. 31 deadline, or the provision expires and would need to be re-introduced by Congress to once again take effect.