House GOP praises passage of USA Freedom Act
The House of Representatives today approved by a vote of 302-121 the USA Freedom Act (H.R. 3361), a bipartisan bill authored by Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) that ends bulk collection of data by the government and reforms our nation’s intelligence-gathering programs operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
For nearly a year, the House Judiciary Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over intelligence-gathering programs operated under FISA, has studied the scope of these programs in detail. The Committee has held three hearings on this issue and has worked with civil liberties advocates, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House leaders, and the Obama Administration to reach the bipartisan solution approved by the House today. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Va.) – key lawmakers who brought this bill to fruition – praised today’s strong vote in the House of Representatives in the joint statement below.
“Today’s strong, bipartisan vote by the House of Representatives on the USA Freedom Act will help protect our cherished individual liberties as the federal government carries out its duty to keep our nation safe from foreign enemies. The USA Freedom Act safeguards Americans’ civil liberties by ending domestic bulk collection once and for all and increases the oversight and transparency of these intelligence-gathering programs so that we can begin to rebuild trust with the American people.
“With today’s vote, the House approved the first significant rollback of government surveillance since the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978. While this is not a perfect bill, the USA Freedom Act is an important step in the right direction. We thank our staff, House leaders, and President Obama and his Administration for working tirelessly with us to reach this bipartisan solution that protects both national security and Americans’ privacy. We urge the Senate to move expeditiously on the USA Freedom Act so that our nation’s intelligence-gathering programs are operated in a manner that honors our country’s legacy of both providing for the common defense and securing the blessings of liberty.”
Below are key provisions of H.R. 3361.
Prohibits Bulk Collection of Data: The bill protects Americans’ privacy by ending the bulk collection of Americans’ business records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, such as telephone and electronic communications records, among many others. The bill also prohibits bulk collection under other national security authorities.
New Process for Obtaining Call Records: The USA Freedom Act makes clear that the government cannot indiscriminately acquire Americans’ records and creates a new process for the collection of call detail records. Specifically, the bill requires that these call detail records can only be collected on an ongoing case-by-case basis after approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The FISC is authorized to allow up to two “hops.”
Protects Americans’ Privacy: The bill codifies current minimization procedures, requiring the government to minimize the acquisition and prohibit the retention and dissemination of information about Americans. Additionally, it prohibits the government from using unlawfully obtained information about Americans acquired outside the scope of court-approved procedures.
Ensures Robust Oversight of Intelligence-Gathering Programs: The bill increases oversight of our intelligence-gathering programs by providing for judicial review of minimization procedures for the production of business records.
Increases Transparency of Intelligence-Gathering Programs: The bill creates a panel of legal experts to help ensure the FISA court adequately considers privacy concerns and Constitutional rights of Americans and also requires the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to conduct a declassification review of each decision, order, or opinion of the FISA court that includes a significant construction or interpretation of the law. The bill requires the government to disclose the number of requests made for call detail records and requires the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to publicly report annually the number of FISA orders issued, modified, or denied by the FISC.
Allows American Tech Companies to Disclose FISA Orders: Last year’s national security leaks have also had a commercial and financial impact on American technology companies that have provided these records. They’ve experienced backlash from both American and foreign consumers and they’ve lost their competitive edge in the global marketplace. In January of this year, the Justice Department entered into a settlement with several companies to permit new ways to report data concerning requests for customer information under FISA. The USA Freedom Act builds upon this settlement, allowing tech companies to inform their American and foreign customers by publicly reporting national security requests.