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SAUNDERS: House vote has China, Russia, Iran taking victory lap

WASHINGTON

Nineteen Republicans joined House Democrats on Wednesday to defeat a measure to extend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law that that enables the federal government to spy on foreigners abroad. The procedural rule was blocked by a vote of 193-228.

The world is changing.

It’s a sad moment for the country when you consider how, after the 9/11 attacks, Americans stood behind efforts to allow the intelligence community access to said communications in the belief that spy craft would be used to protect Americans from hostile national-security rivals.

And now all of that is melting.

For years after 9/11, conservatives at least could be counted on to champion the intelligence establishment, while Democrats were more likely to question their methods. Then came the 2016 election and Donald Trump’s victory.

But then, in January 2017, before Trump took the oath of office, BuzzFeedNews ran what was peddled as a “dossier” of dirt that Russia was supposed to have put together on Trump. Problem: It wasn’t true.

It turned out Democrats paid for the dossier. Later, America learned that the FBI had spied on Carter Page, who was an unpaid adviser to the Trump campaign.

Awkward. The FBI is not supposed to get involved in politics.

You would think that after its sordid misdeeds came to light, the FBI would have cleaned up its act.

But then last year The Washington Post reported that in 2020 and 2021, the FBI wrongly tapped the government’s monster database more than 278,000 times.

As The Post has detailed, federal law enforcement searches targeted Jan. 6 suspects, activists arrested after the killing of George Floyd and 19,000 donors to a congressional candidate who was challenging an incumbent.

Even Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., learned that he was a target.

(Some of these revelations make you wonder how much free time agents have on their hands. Don’t they have something better to do?)

My instincts lean toward renewing the authority. The White House has warned that requiring a warrant for these data searches can take weeks. That would put me in the same neighborhood as President Joe Biden, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and House Speaker Mike Johnson.

But once Trump chimed in against the 702 extension, the partial GOP cave-in was sealed.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was one of the 19 Republicans who took the opposite stance. “Speaker Mike Johnson is urging members to reauthorize FISA after President Trump said: KILL FISA. It’s like asking the Deep State to hold itself accountable after it has abused the American people’s trust,” she posted on social media.

Actually, Johnson was standing up for what he thought was right.

I don’t trust MTG, but I do understand conservatives’ distrust of what Trump calls the “deep state.” Too many times those who are supposed to serve the public act as if they own the government. In this case, the FBI was caught red-handed but did not reform. That’s the kind of arrogance that leads voters to lean toward politicians who don’t want to govern, but just want to get on cable news.

There is no one left to trust. So China, Russia and Iran can take a victory lap.

Contact Review-Journal Washington columnist Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @debrajsaunders on X.

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