Justin Amash: Nunes Memo 'Shows the Dangers of the Secret FISA Court'

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) has long been an advocate of Fourth Amendment rights, and a vocal critic of surveillance methods by U.S. intelligence agencies that in his view intrude on those rights. Naturally, his reaction to the release of the Nunes memo reflects these beliefs.

In a series of tweets posted on Friday afternoon, Amash stated that he was “glad” that the memo had been released, but noted the “serious” allegations contained within it, chiefly the allegation “that a warrant was obtained fraudulently or without sufficient cause.”

As Amash noted, he and the other members of the Freedom Caucus and Liberty Caucus have raised concerns about violations of civil liberties happening with surveillance conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Section 702 of FISA “permits the FBI and other agencies to conduct unconstitutional, warrantless searches on millions of innocent Americans (whose communications were incidentally collected while targeting foreigners overseas),” wrote Amash, making it “far more dangerous” than the conduct alleged in the Nunes memo.

Congress is currently debating a reauthorization bill for FISA, and last month, Amash had proposed an amendment to Section 702 that would have required a warrant supported by probable cause before the government could conduct surveillance searches on American citizens in criminal cases.

Amash’s amendment would have only applied to searches of American citizens conducted on American soil, and would not have restricted the government’s use of Section 702 to conduct surveillance on foreigners overseas, or from storing and accessing that data for national security purposes.

He was able to get some bipartisan support for his amendment, but the leadership of both parties strongly opposed it. Both Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gave floor speeches against the amendment, and it failed on by a vote of 233 to 183.

In his tweets, Amash pointed out that Republicans were objecting to abuses of power described in the memo — abuses that allegedly happened when a warrant was not properly obtained — and questioned why they would raise these objections but not object to Section 702, which stripped away the warrant requirement altogether.

“Congress now has an obligation to re-examine #FISA702 and pass reform legislation” like his amendment, wrote Amash, “to protect the rights of the people we represent.”

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