Biden Team Pushes To Bolster Intel Community Against Some MAGA Wishes

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The Biden administration remains strongly in support of reauthorizing the surveillance powers of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), about which many Republicans — though not exclusively elected officials from that party — have been critical. The section of federal law allows for the surveillance of persons other than U.S. citizens who are located outside the United States, though these specifications are not comprehensive, and communications with U.S. persons — inside or outside the U.S. — could be swept up.

The Biden administration has released a report — and shared its general agreement with the conclusions therein — from the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board in favor of keeping these intelligence authorizations generally in place. The powers under that section of the law will end at the conclusion of this calendar year without legislative intervention.

“We agree with the unanimous conclusion reached by this group of independent, deeply experienced experts that failure to reauthorize Section 702 could be “one of the worst intelligence failures of our time,”” officials said. “We also agree with the Board’s recommendation that Section 702 should be reauthorized without new and operationally damaging restrictions on reviewing intelligence lawfully collected by the government and with measures that build on proven reforms to enhance compliance and oversight, among other improvements.” Signing onto this statement were national security advisor Jake Sullivan and Jon Finer, the principal deputy national security advisor on the president’s team.

In general, Republicans have raised complaints about the government’s usage of its surveillance powers, alleging that the Trump campaign was improperly targeted amid the Russia investigation. John Durham, a special prosecutor tasked with examining these questions, largely failed to deliver on what far-right Republicans said they wanted. Durham sat for questioning by the House Judiciary Committee, which is currently led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and where members like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) maligned the longtime prosecutor. Gaetz sharply questioned Durham on many areas of ostensible concern around which the Florida Republican argued essentially that Durham failed to take the substantial investigative steps that would’ve been warranted, like in pursuit of a foreign individual connected to George Papadopoulos, an ex-Trump campaign aide whose commentary is credited with helping start the Russia probe.