Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and independent Senator Angus King (I-Maine). who caucuses with Democrats, voted to approve a major defense spending bill that includes a a reauthorization and expansion of a controversial surveillance program that has been used to spy on U.S. citizens.
“It is disappointing to see both of our U.S. Senators continue their long records of disrespect for the civil liberties of the American people,” said Maine State Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), speaking to the Maine Wire.
The expansion of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was included in a standard National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and would allow the government to continue the surveillance program.
Although the program is nominally aimed at foreign adversaries and non-state actors, the FISDA program has enabled spying on domestic targets, including members of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“One of the biggest things we’re concerned about here is that on literally hundreds of thousands of occasions innocent, law-abiding Americans have been subjected to what we call a back-door warrantless search,” said U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
The government has reported over 278,000 illegal uses of FISA by the FBI.
“Section 702 has been routinely abused in ways that violate Americans’ fundamental civil liberties and civil rights,” said a letter signed by 33 organizations, including both liberal and conservative groups.
A vote was held to remove the FISA extension from the NDAA, but it was defeated 65-35.
Sen. Collins and Sen. King voted not to remove the surveillance authority from the NDAA.
The vote was not split along party lines, with Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and multiple Democrats voting with conservative Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Lee against the FISA extension.
The NDAA Bill passed through the House on Thursday with a vote of 310-118.
Both of Maine’s U.S. Reps. Jared Golden (CD-2) and Chellie Pingree (CD-1) voted to pass the NDAA.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Kansas) expressed his concerns with the extension of FISA on X.
“The government will use the broadest possible interpretation of its surveillance authorities to spy on Americans,” said Wyden
The expansion of section 702 of FISA would allow the government to collect private information over public Wi-Fi, where before they needed to go through a phone or email provider.
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) supported the bill, which also provides additional aid to Ukraine, despite his resolution earlier this week to prevent further spending on Ukraine unless Democrats first provided for border reform.