Congressman Cohen Questions Republicans’ Politicization of FISA Process
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, today questioned witnesses at a hearing on “Oversight on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).” Congressman Cohen expressed concern about seeking surveillance warrants based on activity protected under the First Amendment. Congressman Cohen asked representatives from the FBI and Department of Justice to audit their use of the law in surveilling racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. See his entire exchange with the witnesses here.
In his questioning, Congressman Cohen said:
“I appreciate the work you all are doing in your agencies. What the Department of Justice does, what the FBI does, what the intelligence agencies do, protects our country. It’s sad they’re being attacked on a regular basis over the last two years.”
Turning to witness Brad Wiegmann, Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Congressman Cohen expressed concern about the FISA Act and First Amendment rights. Wiegmann assured him that they are carefully protected.
“A lot of people have issues or concerns about minority communities being targeted,” Congressman Cohen continued. “Have you or any of your colleagues here analyzed whether (a FISA Act provision) has disproportionately been used on specific minority groups – Muslims in particular, Hispanics, border communities – and how would you go about assessing this?”
Wiegmann said the FBI cannot initiate any investigative activity, including under FISA, solely on the basis of one’s race, religion, gender or nationality.
Other witnesses at today’s hearing were Michael J. Orlando, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, and Susan Morgan from the National Security Agency.