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November 28, 2023

House Intel Committee defends FISA but suggests reforms amid debate over controversial surveillance program

The House Intelligence Committee has defended the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to conduct surveillance of foreigners suspected of terrorism, but has conceded that reforms are needed to safeguard against abuse. The committee's report comes amid an ongoing debate over the Obama administration's use of FISA to spy on foreign citizens living in the United States. The committee expressed concern that certain provisions of FISA, including the “significant purpose” standard and the “reasonableness” standard, effectively limit the oversight and accountability of the government in its use of FISA. The committee also highlighted the need for greater transparency in the FISA process, citing the need for increased public awareness and a more open exchange of information between the Executive branch and Congress. The committee recommended that the government establish a public website to track requests for surveillance under FISA and make FISA hearings open to the public. The report also recommended that Congress consider enacting additional reforms to protect against potential abuse of FISA, such as an independent panel of experts who could review and assess application trends and patterns to ensure compliance with the law. Ultimately, the committee report offered a nuanced view of the controversial surveillance program, suggesting reforms while ultimately defending its use in the fight against terrorism.