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Could Mar-a-Lago Search Derail Bill on Federal Surveillance Powers?

Republican fury over the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago is about to upend a long-running fight over intelligence agencies’ surveillance powers. Republicans are warning that the search of Donald Trump’s Florida residence is throwing an early curveball into reauthorization of a program known as Section 702, Politico reports. Meant to gather electronic communications of foreign targets, it has caused no shortage of controversy over the years given its ability to inadvertently sweep up citizens' communications. Alluding to the Mar-a-Lago search, House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) said, “When you have actions like this, for a lot of people it’s feeding into suspicions that they may have. And we’re trying to get past all of that. We have our work cut out for us.”

Fitzpatrick, a centrist who breaks from Trump at times and is working on reauthorizing the program, predicted that the search of the former president’s estate would have a “ripple effect” on the debate because it feeds GOP doubts about the top ranks of the FBI. Approving future Section 702 surveillance was never going to be easy in a GOP with long-running fractures over the often-sweeping scope of law enforcement and intelligence monitoring, as illustrated by brawls on the issue in 2018 and 2020. While Congress has until the end of 2023 to act on a program that the FBI and others have argued is critical to national security, House Republicans said they’ve already started talking about it as they prepare for a likely majority next year. “It complicates it a lot,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), another Intelligence Committee member and the frontrunner to succeed retiring Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), said about the search’s impact on the surveillance fight.

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