Bob Goodlatte: USA Freedom Act is law of the land

goodlattefourinIn drafting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, our Founders sought to maintain a careful balance between preserving civil liberties and protecting our citizens from enemy threats. However, two years ago, the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program revealed federal actions that had gone too far, threatening Americans’ civil liberties and privacy.

It was clear that this bulk collection program must end. The American people demanded as much, and many in Congress agreed. But a few of us did much more, working to build a coalition to achieve that goal. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I consulted at length with various privacy and technology groups and the intelligence community, held numerous hearings on surveillance reform, and, as a result, we drafted the USA Freedom Act. This carefully crafted compromise has the support of the President, the Attorney General, the intelligence community, the technology industry, privacy groups, and most importantly, the American people. Several weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives approved this legislation by a vote of 338-88. Ultimately, after continued delay, the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act on June 2nd, and it was signed into law on the same day.

The bottom line is that the USA Freedom Act protects Americans’ civil liberties and enhances our national security. In addition to ending the bulk collection of data by the federal government, the USA Freedom Act increases the transparency of the government’s intelligence-gathering programs by making more information available to the American public. It requires the declassification of all significant court opinions, mandates the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence provide the public with detailed information about how they use national security authorities, and provides technology companies with a range of options for describing how they respond to national security orders. While this new law preserves key intelligence-gathering authorities, it replaces the NSA’s current, unlawful program with a new, targeted call detail records program. There are strong civil liberties protections under this program by requiring the court to approve the government’s request for information.

The USA Freedom Act proves once again that we can protect both Americans’ civil liberties and our national security without compromising either one. It is only fitting that it is now the law of the land. We must also let this serve as a reminder that our civil liberties must be fiercely protected – after all, they are what define the very fabric of our nation.

Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth District in Congress.

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