The Better for America Podcast

FISA, Surveillance, & Government Overreach | Jeff Van Drew | EP 281

Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2024
by Rebecca Weber
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FISA and Government Overreach

Rebecca Weber and Congressman Jeff Van Drew address the controversies surrounding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), discussing its perceived lack of transparency and the potential for abuse. They highlight the significant concern among citizens about government overreach and the need for stricter oversight mechanisms to safeguard civil liberties.

Erosion of Public Trust Due to Surveillance

The dialogue underscores the erosion of trust between the American public and the government, spurred by invasive surveillance practices. Congressman Van Drew points out that surveillance has often targeted ordinary Americans, particularly those with conservative viewpoints, which he argues contributes to a broader distrust in governmental institutions.

Proposals for Reforming Surveillance Laws

Congressman Van Drew speaks about his role in legislative efforts to reform how surveillance is conducted, particularly emphasizing the necessity of warrants for investigating American citizens. He mentions legislative successes in his committee aimed at protecting personal freedoms while still addressing security concerns.

Infrastructure Challenges and Economic Considerations

The conversation shifts focus to infrastructure, where Congressman Van Drew criticizes the current administration’s handling of fiscal policies and infrastructure projects. He advocates for responsible spending and strategic planning to ensure that infrastructure improvements are both effective and economically viable.

Political Dynamics and Future Elections

The interview touches on the political implications of surveillance and government practices, with both Weber and Van Drew discussing the upcoming presidential election’s potential impact on policy and governance. They express a desire for leadership that prioritizes American values and the protection of individual rights.

Please leave any questions or suggestions for future BFA episodes in the comments below!

Full Episode Transcript:

Rebecca Weber: Hello, everyone. I’m Rebecca Weber. You’re watching Better for America presented by AMAC, the Association of Mature American Citizens. Congressman Jeff Van Drew is with us today. He’s from New Jersey, which is home to nearly 40, 000 AMAC members. Congressman, welcome to the show. And thank you for being with me.

Rep. Van Drew: It’s always good to be with you. Thank you. Thank you for the work that you do.

Rebecca Weber: Excellent. Congressman, so much focus these days, especially all over social media, if you’re paying attention, there has been on FISA. FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, and that sets out procedures for physical and electronic surveillance and the collection of foreign intelligence information.

Now, critics of FISA argue that the process lacks transparency and adequate oversight, and that could lead to potential abuses of power. And AMAC members, of course, are very concerned about government overreach. What is your stance on this issue?

Rep. Van Drew: I have strong feelings on it. I sit on the Judiciary Committee.

I work a lot with Chairman Jim Jordan on these issues. And, Lemme just say it at the outset. Benjamin Franklin said whole number of years ago that those that would be willing to give up freedom for security deserve neither. That is as true now as it was then. There are no doubt in the world that there are a lot of bad folks out there that want to do harm to the United States of America.

Lots of dangerous agents representing countries, agents for countries, and those that would certainly fight against democracy, freedom and against the United States of America. I realized that. And that’s why this legislation was in place for years. However, it has been abused and it’s been misused.

We were promised at the last renewal of FISA that everything would be okay. This was over five years ago. That there would be no abuse, that the system would work. And what did we find out? Not a few times, not hundreds of times, not thousands of times, but over that whole entire time period, millions of times.

And who were they looking at? Whose privacy were they invading? Men and women that might be more conservative. Men and women that might support Donald Trump. Men and women that had certain political beliefs. In some cases, those that were very religious. It was unbelievable. They went after, they investigated campaigns and they quite frankly, even investigated some progressives when they shouldn’t have, it was just wrong.

If they’re worried, if the government is worried, if Homeland Security is worried, if the FBI is worried, they should be looking at not this. But what’s going on in our borders? We have millions of people who have come in this country. We don’t know who many of them are. We know that some of them are absolutely on the terror watch list.

We know that some of them are dangerous. That’s what we should be doing is closing our borders down. Now, we do need to have the ability to investigate those dangerous actors out there who are in the United States of America. And guess what? 98 over 98 percent of the time we can with no problem. But what the legislation that we did in our committee and that got out of our committee virtually unanimously in the judiciary committee was that you needed a warrant if you wanted to investigate or do an inquiry or go after someone who was an American citizen, that’s not a big deal.

Now, the other side tries to say that you would need thousands of judges more. No, you wouldn’t because guess what? That’s only 1. 5 or 1. 58 to be accurate percent of the cases, but it’s a big deal. It’s our freedom. It’s everything we have fought for. It’s everything we’ve stood up for. It’s everything that we believe.

And it should stop and I’ll leave you with this last note, we had this argument and it got through. It’s a 2 year renewal. Thank God. It’s not a 5 year renewal, but. If it was so good, if this was the right thing to do, why did Congress exempt itself, basically? Why? Because they’re worried they’d get investigated.

That tells it all. Rules for thee, but not for me.

Rebecca Weber: That is such an important point. And Congressman, it is so hard to imagine that we would have people in our own government that would be prioritizing the surveillance of everyday, average, ordinary Americans are made up of all kinds of people with different ideas, with different faiths different religions.

But to go after people, it how does this kind of thing go that way? There’s got to be someone somewhere that’s giving the nod and saying we need to go after these kinds of people or these groups of, people who are buying Bibles, people who are buying guns. How does this spiral out of control like this?

Because the American people really want to be able to trust the government. And we know that public trust is way down.

Rep. Van Drew: And so many people with good reason. I hate to say this. It hurts me to say it. But with good reason, do not trust our government. Now, it’s not everybody that works at the Department of Justice.

It’s not every attorney general that we’ve had. It is not everyone in the FBI, but the upper echelon right now, under this president. I’ve had no qualms about going after people. This is true. I sit on the judiciary. Almost everything that you see either goes through the Judiciary Committee or Oversight Committee on these issues.

I’ve seen it all. Things I would have never believed years ago. It is true that the FBI had a plan in place. It came out of the Virginia office and the plan was that they were going to go into with undercover agents. Roman Catholic churches, because they were considering them domestic terrorists. Thank God we caught them.

That was the good work of the Judiciary Committee. But that’s not all. You mentioned something that’s really telling. If you happen to visit certain religious stores, or if you happen to buy Trump paraphernalia, or if you happen to buy anything that relates to guns or ammunition or cash, Periodicals and magazines and things that do they were tracking that through credit card corporations to that is not the America that we know.

It’s not the America that we believe in. And I would defend that whether somebody totally disagreed with me. It could be somebody on the left. If they’re doing it to them, it’s wrong too, but it’s mostly conservatives who are standing up for these freedoms and we have to get a new president. I wanna get right down to brass tacks that’s gonna have the right people at the top of the FB.

The Department of Justice, the right attorney general, it’s going to do the right thing. And there are members of the Intel community, and some of them are involved, too. We all remember it went after President Trump. They said that Trump was involved with Russian collusion and you know what? It turned out it wasn’t true.

They were giving money to a bad, corrupt, foreign agent and gave them this information who admits it now. And that’s what they based that on. It was all a big lie.

Rebecca Weber: Yeah. So this upper echelon, these people that are in very high levels of power these people have got to go. We’ve got to be sure that as you pointed out that we get a president in office who loves this country, who’s willing to fight for the American people.

And we see that happening with Donald Trump. Of course we’re labeled extremists for saying that we want to make America great again. I will never quite understand that. Congressman, but but we’re not going to stop. We won’t back down. We’re going to wear our values like a badge and we’re going to fight for this country until the very end.

Rep. Van Drew: I just want to get one more.

Rebecca Weber: Yes. Go ahead.

Rep. Van Drew: What is wrong? And you alluded to it just now. Make America, Great Again

Rebecca Weber: what’s wrong with that?

Rep. Van Drew: What is wrong with those four words? They make it like it’s derogatory. We love the United States of America. We want it to be the It is the greatest nation that ever was on the face of the earth.


Rebecca Weber: That’s exactly right. I just want to talk a little bit about the technology out there because there is such an, a rapid advancement of technology relating to FISA, the surveillance capabilities. It seems that they have expanded significantly. Are there any safeguards that, that you think should be put in place to really protect citizens from unwarranted surveillance?

Because this tech, the landscape is changing.

Rep. Van Drew: It is, and that’s what we’ll go back to the most important one of all, why I did not and will not support or vote for that FISA bill. And it was a tied vote to change it. A tied vote. 212 to 212 to change it, that you had to require a warrant in certain cases.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s our system of justice. You just because you’re from the government, you can’t go after people just because you don’t agree with them or because they’re different or whatever. The reason is if they’re dangerous and you need to investigate, whether it’s through technology or whatever means.

Get the warrant. The judge can give it quickly. And by the way, if it’s a real case of national security built in to our bill, there could be exceptions. If something very terrible was going to happen, there were exceptions to it. It just, it’s a bad bill. It’s the wrong thing. It sets a bad precedent. We were told in the past that it would be okay.

And we saw what happened. They were looking up. We had people, agents looking up their girlfriends, their boyfriends, people they didn’t like, other husbands or wives, all kinds of things that just didn’t pertain to national security at all. That’s what happens when you give unchecked power to government.

The beauty of America is that we don’t allow that to happen, or we didn’t allow it to happen. We’ve got to get back to that again. I know I speak with President Trump on a weekly basis. He is going to change this when he gets in. We’ll have new legislation. We get a robust majority in the House and a good majority in the Senate.

We’ll be able to make some real change.

Rebecca Weber: I think it was Ronald Reagan who said You never want to knock at the door. Somebody’s saying, Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to help because we know that government should be very limited and this excessive power. It seems that it continues to grow and grow.

American people are really fed up with it. They want to see their money. put into things like better infrastructure. People want to be able to keep also, buy a home and pursue the American dream, keep their gas stoves, that kind of thing. We’ve got an, we’ve got an administration that’s really attacking.

The central family unit in America going after parents, going after households where, people want to, are concerned about their schools. The list goes on and on. I could, you and I could go back and forth about how much that needs to be changed. But you’re right, sir. When you say that we need change so badly, and I do think it’s now or never, this presidential election will really be telling and will help.

Really pave the future. You know what? What it looks like in America for generations to come. And I do want to talk a little bit about infrastructure because you do serve as a member of the House Judiciary Committee. And we saw supply chains, supply chain issues over the last number of years. I don’t think previous prior to COVID that Americans really Thought much about supply chain, but now under Biden’s America, it really is an issue.

And I do talk to a lot of business owners, the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Now, that was mentioned as an integral part to America’s trade and transportation. How will its recent collapse impact or could it impact trade and transportation moving forward?

Rep. Van Drew: We’re trying to work as quickly as we can to make sure that we get those waters to be navigable again, so that people can go forward and back.

We rerouted the truck traffic around there. As being on the transportation infrastructure committee, as well as the judiciary committee, you do get to see a lot and I was real busy for 1, because we have both things going on and we still do. What’s important with this. Is where’s the money going to come from to fix it?

Now we have a responsibility. I am America first, and we need to have the best infrastructure in the world. And unfortunately, sometimes we don’t. So we need to rebuild the bridge and the federal government does have to help. And that’s a worthy expenditure, but there’s a big, but here, a couple things. One, we have to make sure.

That we have whatever new bridges are built that are major construction design and major costs have the protective barriers that they need to make sure that they don’t fall like a house of cards. We all saw the videos over and over again how quickly that. Bridge went down, you hit an important structure, structurally part of it, and the entire bridge collapsed.

We can do better than that. Bridges are built with protective barriers. They are shock absorbers in a sense. That can help with that. So I have legislation to do that. I hope to get that through my committee on transportation to try to avoid these things into the future. We’re spending billions and billions of dollars.

For God’s sake, it’s people’s money that they break their back to make and give to us in taxes. Let’s do it the right way. The second thing, and importantly, Joe Biden has no sense of the budget at all. Just spends money, doesn’t care. He’ll take your money and he’ll just tax you higher. So yes, we have to do this in the federal government, but let’s recoup as much money as we possibly can for the Singapore own ship for the vessel that did this.

They have insurance. They have assets. It was completely neglectful. What happened? We don’t know. Exactly. Without everything that happened. But we’ve got to get some money from them because otherwise it all falls on the taxpayer. And that’s not right. Taxpayers are getting more now.

Rebecca Weber: Yeah, that sounds like a lot of good common sense right there.

And you introduced the Bridge Protection Act and the Francis Scott Key Bridge Disaster Taxpayer Reimbursement Resolution. And it seems to me that both of these are really aimed at strengthening American infrastructure systems. And really. Ensuring that the bill is not footed by American taxpayers. Do you expect a rare instance of bipartisan support in Congress on these?

Rep. Van Drew: I hope so. I know, I hope that there will be. We’re going to find out. I know that the left is so anxious just to spend the money and I agree. In this case, we do have to take care of our home infrastructure, but there’s nothing wrong with accountability on 1, making sure that they’re built right. And secondly, making sure that whatever money we can get from other entities, whether sometimes it’s foreign countries, whether it’s another company, whether it’s an insurance company, for God’s sake, just don’t say, yeah, we’re paying for everything, I’m going to digress for a second, even in the war in Ukraine, regardless of how you feel about it, Joe Biden said, No matter how much it costs, no matter how much, no matter how long it takes decades.

We’re just going to keep going. You just don’t say things like that. You know what? He’s done well in his years in government. He’s a very wealthy man. Whole lot of other Americans have it. They work hard every day, sometimes 2 jobs, 3 jobs between a couple, sometimes 4 jobs. They’re my constituents.

You know what? They deserve accountability. They are. They don’t mind paying. In taxes, if it’s going for the right thing,

Rebecca Weber: If it’s fair, we have a, yeah, we have a president who is not a fair man. He is certainly not a fair man, in my view. And, especially during times of crisis.

For goodness sakes he just can’t seem to relate to the average American. Shows, has no empathy. He lacks that greatly. And then he tends to make up stories in order to fit in or to tie the narratives. So that he can somehow personalize it. But we know that these are not even

Rep. Van Drew: true. He was on a rail train on that bridge.

He claimed he was on the train. He used to travel on the train on that bridge. The bridge doesn’t have capabilities. Never had a train on it. No matter what the story is, whether it’s a brave hero who’s died in combat or a bridge collapse or what happened in East Palestine in Ohio, he’s got a story.

I, he drank some bad water once. He was on a collapsing bridge just,

Rebecca Weber: yeah, the stories go on and on and it’s during times of crisis when we really, I think a presidential response can go a long way and really helping heal emotional wounds for a nation. Just for the fun of it, let me share with you Joe Biden’s response to the Francis Scott Key bridge collapse.

If you could take a listen right here, congressman that, that was far from assuring and reassuring. What is your response to his awful representation of our country? And it’s not just in this case, but in so many,

Rep. Van Drew: what I would have said is we have the best workers in the world. We are going to rebuild this bridge better than it ever was before, just like we have to make America even better, the greatest country, and we are going to get this job because we are, we’re going to get this job done because we are Americans and we know how to make it happen.

That’s what I would have said, I don’t know what he was mumbling about, but it didn’t make me walk away feeling good.

Rebecca Weber: Absolutely. Congressman, that’s why we so appreciate you and so many of your great colleagues that are doing the work on, really representing your constituents.

And it’s tough because you’ve got such a very barely there thin majority. And I just pray that we can see more common sense leadership. In both houses of Congress and we do pray for a brand new president, one who is going to put America first and speaking of a possible new president, I understand that you have a visitor.

Tell us coming soon to your neck of the woods. Tell us a little bit about what’s coming.

Rep. Van Drew: I have a good friendship with the president. I talk to him just about every single week and it developed, over five years ago, as many of your viewers know, I was a conservative Democrat when there used to be such effect.

There was no room for me though, because of all the issues we just spoke about and many more. So I decided that, maybe I was just, I was done, which is fine. Everybody has a political cycle. It doesn’t mean you do it forever. And then I got a call from the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

He said, I want to talk to you. We spoke for an hour and a half. I became a Republican and then we had a big rally and we had a rally in Wildwood, New Jersey at the Jersey shore with people from Pennsylvania and New York. It was a party. It was huge. Not only did we celebrate, but he spoke about the issues.

He fired people up. He just puts so much energy in the air. It was magic. We’re going to relive that magic on May 11th on Wildwood on the beach, one of the biggest beaches on the East Coast. And we’re going to have fun and we’re going to listen to the president. And I look forward to introducing him there and we’re going to have a good time, but a very meaningful time.

What he’s gone through, I just want to end with this.

Rebecca Weber: Please take your time.

Rep. Van Drew: He’s not being a prosecutor, he is being persecuted. It is awful. You know what, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat or a middle of the road, you should be concerned because they’re going after him. They’re using the justice.

Department. They’re using the judiciary. They’re using the everybody that they have a point into whether they be attorney generals or prosecutors in these communities to go after the president over completely frivolous charges that would never normally happen. And I want folks to think about this.

If it happened to him, it can happen to you. We’ve got to turn the corner and stop it.

Rebecca Weber: I have to ask you, and this is a question that I hear from AMAC members. Can Congress do anything to hold people like Alvin Braggs accountable? Can Congress do anything?

Rep. Van Drew: Hopefully when we when we get a bigger, more robust majority and we get a majority in the Senate and a president we can, we’ll stop a lot of this stuff and we’ll be able to do things.

The problem now is quite frankly, the left controls the Justice Department. The left controls the Senate left controls the executive branch. When you want to do anything, whether it’s about only security homeland security, Mayorkas deserve to be impeached. He’s purposely and knowingly breaking the law.

And yet it’s going to dies in the Senate,

House did it. We impeached him, but the trial wouldn’t happen. The conviction would happen

Rebecca Weber: shame on Chuck Schumer, really shame on Chuck Schumer for, talking out both sides of his mouth. It is just abhorrent what he is doing. And I pray that American people show up and that we have free and fair elections when they do show up.

Rep. Van Drew: We are not fighting for the future of the Republican party. We’re fighting for the future of the very Republic itself.

Rebecca Weber: Wow. Let that sink in folks. That is the truth. Wow. Big stuff. Important stuff. Again, I thank you so much for being with me today, Congressman Jeff Dandrew from New Jersey. Thanks again, and I do hope to have you back with me again before November.

We’ll have a lot more to talk about as things develop.

Rep. Van Drew: We will and thank you for the good work that you do.

Rebecca Weber: Thank you, sir. God bless you. And to everyone out there listening, please be sure to join or renew your membership with AMAC. Don’t forget to check your mailbox. The last magazine should have been delivered to you just a few days ago.

You’ll get that magazine every other month. including steep discounts on all kinds of things like travel food when you shop, when you eat out, check out our AMAC member benefits. And of course, AMAC action is rolling up our sleeves, doing all we can to bring your voice to Washington. That’s it for today, folks.

I’m Rebecca Weber. Have a blessed day. We’ll see you next time.

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Ken Paul
Ken Paul
24 days ago

I never thought I’d say this, but the government’s actions over the past decade woke me up to the dangers of unbridled government control and secrecy. It proved to me that government is not always the guys in the white hats. The FISA abuses against the Trump campaign are instructive of this very point. It even gives me pause when considering Michael Snowden’s situation. The government — like any bureaucracy — will always look out for its own self-interests first… not its citizens.

Allen A
Allen A
27 days ago

We must lay siege to the Democrats. Start or push forward recall petitions against every Democrat in public office, from town council and school board to state and national offices. At this point, there are no “good” Democrats, because every one of them in office adds strength to the DNC. Subject them to endless recalls until they are removed from office or they resign because they have spent all of their money trying to fight the recalls. The DNC is an enemy of the People and must be treated as such. If you can recall a RINO, do it, but the main enemy of us all is the Democrat Party.

Terry Brinker
Terry Brinker
27 days ago

Thanks for this podcast. Always informative.

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