House Passes Legislation to Expand Surveillance on International Drug Traffickers

Houlahan's Bill Addressing Fentanyl Crisis at Southern Border PASSES in FISA ReauthorizationSubmitted Image

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, the House of Representatives approved an amendment aimed at bolstering the United States’ fight against international drug trafficking. The amendment, introduced by Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and co-led by Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), was incorporated into the larger Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reauthorization package, receiving bipartisan support with a vote of 273-147.

The legislation, H.R. 7837, titled the Enhancing Intelligence Collection on Foreign Drug Traffickers Act of 2024, seeks to expand the scope of Section 702 of FISA. This section allows the intelligence community to collect electronic communications from non-U.S. persons outside the United States involved in activities that possess foreign intelligence information. Houlahan’s bill introduces a fourth certification category focusing specifically on the international production, distribution, and financing of illicit drugs, including fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid responsible for a significant number of overdose deaths in the U.S.

Expressing her satisfaction with the passage of the bill, Rep. Houlahan highlighted the importance of taking decisive action to address the devastating impact of illicit drugs on American communities. “By expanding Section 702 of FISA to include the targeting of international drug trafficking networks, we are advancing vital measures to confront the opioid epidemic head-on and protect the well-being of all Americans,” Houlahan stated.

Rep. Crenshaw emphasized the national security threat posed by drug traffickers, such as the Sinaloa cartel and CJNG, underscoring the necessity of refocusing intelligence collection efforts on these criminal organizations. The inclusion of a fourth certification for targeting narco-traffickers represents a strategic shift in the U.S. government’s approach to combating the complex networks behind the global drug trade.

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Currently, Section 702 authorizes intelligence collection under three certifications: foreign governments and related entities, counterterrorism, and combatting proliferation. H.R. 7837’s modification of the definition of “foreign intelligence information” in FISA to encompass activities related to the international trafficking of synthetic drugs and other substances marks a critical expansion of the intelligence community’s capabilities.

The passage of this legislation paves the way for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to approve more targeted surveillance measures against international drug syndicates. This move is anticipated to enhance the U.S. government’s ability to disrupt the operations of transnational criminal organizations and mitigate the flow of illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, into the country.

As the FISA reauthorization package, including Houlahan and Crenshaw’s amendment, progresses through the legislative process, it signals a concerted effort by lawmakers to address the opioid crisis and related drug issues with a multifaceted approach that includes strengthening intelligence and surveillance capabilities. This legislative action reflects a growing recognition of the need for comprehensive strategies to safeguard public health and national security in the face of evolving global threats.

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