05.13.20

Rounds Supports FISA Amendment to Strengthen Due Process, Protect Civil Liberties

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today voted in favor of the Lee/Leahy amendment, which provides federal law enforcement with the tools they need to protect Americans from foreign powers while also better protecting the civil liberties of all Americans. It passed by a vote of 77-19. FISA reauthorization is being considered in the Senate this week, with a final vote expected tomorrow.

“The FBI’s gross mishandling of the FISA process when it surveilled President Trump’s campaign has underscored the need to reform the entire process,” said Rounds. “It started with a bad FISA warrant when, according to the Inspector General at the Department of Justice, FBI employees made substantial misrepresentations to the affidavits they submitted to the court in order to get approval to surveil the Trump campaign. This type of behavior should appall every one of us. The Lee/Leahy amendment makes much-needed reforms to the foreign surveillance system to protect Americans from these types of civil liberty violations from happening again.”

The Lee amendment, led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), would require the FISA court to appoint an outside lawyer to argue against the government in major cases, mirroring the adversarial system that is a hallmark of our country's legal system. It would also require FBI employees appearing before the FISA court to disclose factual evidence that might call into question the accuracy of their statements.

FISA authorizes the government to surveil individuals suspected of acting as foreign agents. Applications to surveil these individuals are submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves or denies these requests. Last year, the Department of Justice Inspector General found 17 serious errors or omissions in the FBI’s FISA applications that were used to surveil President Trump’s campaign team. Additionally, the inspector general recently performed a sampling of 29 FBI applications for FISA surveillance. On 25 of those 29 samples, he found an average of 20 “issues” per application.