Attorney General Bill Barr on Wednesday said he supports the passage of the new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill, which he says contains new provisions that “will protect against abuse and misuse in the future.”
“I have reviewed the House FISA bill and support its passage,” Barr said in a statement Wednesday. “The bill contains an array of new requirements and compliance provisions that will protect against abuse and misuse in the future while ensuring that this critical tool is available when appropriate to protect the safety of the American people.”
Barr went on to say that he was “pleased” that the bill contains provisions that he and FBI Director Christopher Wray, at the recommendation of Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz, put forth “to address past failures,” saying Horowitz’s recommendations “helped shape our proposals.”
“It is of the utmost importance that the Department’s attorneys and investigators always work in a manner consistent with the highest professional standards, and this overall package will help ensure the integrity of the FISA process and protect against future abuses going forward,” Barr said, urging “broad bi-partisan support” for the measure.
Barr’s support for the bill, introduced this week, comes as the current legislation – the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act – is slated to expire Sunday, March 15. The bill includes enhanced congressional oversight of the FISA process, penalties for those who abuse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) process for political purposes, and the requirement to have transcripts of court proceedings.
At issue were three surveillance provisions that are set to expire Sunday, including one that permits the FBI to obtain our orders to collect business records on subjects in national security investigations. Another, known as the “roving wiretap” provision, permits surveillance on subjects even after they’ve changed phones, and to monitor subjects who don’t have ties to international terrorist organizations.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the bill tightens up the legislation to avoid abuses but doesn’t go far enough in protecting civil liberties, but said “we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
“This bill is an important package of reforms,” Nadler said.
A top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has been vocal in the FISA reform process and throughout the investigation into FISA abuses, said the bill could have gone further but “does represent real reform.”
Jordan said the revisions are much better than the current FBI surveillance tools that have come into focus with the improper applications to surveil former President Trump campaign aide Carter Page in the Russia probe.
“This bill before us represents real reform to the FISA program,” Jordan said. “These reforms have long been necessary but have been especially warranted in recent years, given the FBI spying on the Trump campaign affiliate Carter Page.”
The new legislation also requires the attorney general to personally sign off on surveilling government officials.
The Justice Department inspector general, after a years-long review, found in December there was no evidence of political bias or improper motivation in starting the Trump Russia probe. However, the IG report revealed there were at least 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the Page FISA applications.
The legislation is slated for a vote as early as Wednesday.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.