America First Republicans Slam Speaker Johnson Over FISA Reversal

The House of Representatives’ vote to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) last week has sparked outrage among America First lawmakers who view the move as allowing federal agencies to continue warrantless domestic spying on American citizens.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) a former vocal critic of FISA before assuming the leadership position has reversed his stance since taking the gavel drawing ire from the GOP members who put him in the Speaker’s seat.

Efforts led by a group of Republicans to implement stricter controls including a mandatory warrant for surveillance and a prohibition against federal agencies buying American data from online brokers were defeated in tight votes. This has allowed for the continuation of what many see as unconstitutional surveillance practices.

“When I was a member of Judiciary I saw all of the abuses of the FBI” Johnson stated. However those abuses seem to now have no effect on Johnson’s decision to support warrantless surveillance of American citizens.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who led last year’s movement to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) which led to Johnson’s ascendancy and other House Judiciary members are deeply disappointed with Johnson’s about-face on privacy. “These were views that the Speaker deeply held like 20 minutes ago” Gaetz said.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) has voiced strong opposition even co-sponsoring a resolution filed by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to oust Johnson from the Speakership citing his reversal on crucial privacy issues as a primary reason. “The will of the majority was to have a warrant provision and he was on the other side of that. There are no red lines here. I just think he lost a lot of capital with that vote” Massie said.

Freedom Caucus member Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) also came out strongly against FISA as reauthorized and Johnson’s failure to lead on the issues. “The American people don’t want their liberties taken away. They want their Fourth Amendment liberties to be upheld” he said.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) went even further accusing Johnson of turning against his former GOP colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee. “What we ended up with was a bill that didn’t have the warrant protections in the bill. It was going to be forced to be added as an amendment. And then the Speaker of the House put his finger on the scale against the amendment. And that pretty much is the story” Roy said.

“This is not off of the House floor so everybody’s got to go home and answer their constituents over the next 72 hours about why they are siding with the intelligence agencies and the deep state and the swamp over the rights and the liberties of the American people. That was the choice today” he continued. “And every single person in this body no matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat voted against an amendment to protect Americans to protect them with a warrant and they’ve got to answer to it.”

Johnson’s pivot from privacy advocacy to supporting broad surveillance powers exemplifies leaders’ challenges when privy to national security data. However his reversal also highlights a potentially dangerous precedent where security imperatives justify expansive surveillance capabilities potentially at the cost of civil liberties.