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JAYAPAL, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN, BICAMERAL BILL TO REFORM NSA SURVEILLANCE & PROTECT AMERICANS’ CIVIL RIGHTS

The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act would end NSA mass surveillance of phone records, protect against FISA abuse, close secret law loopholes & expand oversight of government surveillance

[WASHINGTON, DC] –  U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, today joined a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of lawmakers to introduce strong new reforms to protect Americans’ rights against unnecessary government surveillance. The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act is the first comprehensive legislation introduced in this Congress to reform Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and prevent abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The bill comes ahead of the March 15 expiration of Section 215, which the National Security Agency used to create a secret mass surveillance program that swept up millions of Americans’ phone calls.

“We must stop sacrificing the civil liberties our Constitution guarantees in the name of national security. We must stop spying on our own citizens without probable cause, without legal and limited warrants, and without any transparency or accountability,” said Jayapal. “By ending the unconstitutional collection of Americans’ international communications and reforming Section 215 of the Patriot Act, this bipartisan bill protects the privacy and civil rights of Americans. The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act closes dangerous loopholes and strengthens oversight to prevent government overreach and abuse, and ends the indiscriminate collection of massive amounts of domestic communications—surveillance that disproportionately hurts communities of color. It ensures the Intelligence Community is held to important standards established under the Fourth Amendment and reinforces that we can—and must—protect our national security and our civil liberties at the same time.”

The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act includes a host of reforms:

  • It would permanently end the flawed phone surveillance program, which secretly scooped up Americans’ telephone records for years.
  • It would close loopholes and prohibit secret interpretation of the law, like those that led to unconstitutional warrantless surveillance programs. 
  • It would prohibit warrantless collection of geolocation information by intelligence agencies.
  • It would respond to issues raised by the Inspector General’s office by ensuring independent attorneys, known as amici, have access to all documents, records and proceedings of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to provide more oversight and transparency.

Read a summary of the bill here. The bill text is available here.

The bill’s original co-sponsors are U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MO), and U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) and Warren Davidson (OH-08). Free Press, Demand Progress and FreedomWorks have endorsed the bill.

“Liberty and security aren’t mutually exclusive, and they aren’t partisan either,” Wyden said. “I’m proud our bipartisan coalition is standing up for Americans’ rights and commonsense reforms to protect our people against unnecessary government surveillance. This bill preserves authorities the government uses against criminals and terrorists, while putting Americans’ constitutional rights front and center.”

“Montanans want their privacy protected. That’s why I’m fighting to protect our civil liberties and to stop the federal government from interfering into our lives,” Daines said. 

“Congress must do its job to uphold the Constitution by reforming Section 215 to ensure it isn’t misused to spy on Americans,” said Lofgren. “In public hearings, the Intelligence Community made it clear that it does not believe Fourth Amendment privacy protections for personal or private information that exist for criminal investigations necessarily apply to national security investigations. That position is not only contrary to the Constitution, but also defies Congressional intent. That’s why our Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act prevents the misuse of Section 215 by clarifying that simply calling an investigation an ‘intelligence investigation’ cannot be used to circumvent Americans’ Fourth Amendment protections.” 

“As a former Army Ranger, I know the important role intelligence plays in protecting our country. However, ignoring the 4th amendment does not make Americans safer or more secure. Recent court decisions have made it clear that FISA section 215 is a clear violation of Americans’ right to privacy,” said Davidson. “I am proud to be an original cosponsor of bipartisan legislation that does a great deal to reestablish the Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections.”

“The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act is a major step forward in protecting people from warrantless and discriminatory surveillance by government authorities,” said Free Press Action Government Relations Director Sandra Fulton. “Members of Congress should understand the impact of these laws on the nation’s most vulnerable communities, and should seize this moment to curtail the dragnet-surveillance powers that were granted under the deeply problematic and outdated PATRIOT Act. And while surveillance in the U.S. has always focused on people of color and protesters, Trump has proven to be a unique threat to the most vulnerable communities and this is a crucial step to check these dangerous powers. We applaud Senators Wyden and Daines and Representatives Lofgren, Davidson and Jayapal for introducing this important legislation.”

“In 2018, five years after the public learned about the NSA’s bulk telephone metadata dragnet, the government still collected over 434 million phone records under a single program that had only 11 targets. While the call detail records program has already collapsed under its own weight, the statutory authority for it has not, and the lesson is clear: Congress must do more to rein in the government’s out-of-control surveillance,” said Sean Vitka, counsel for Demand Progress. “The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act protects innocent people in the United States by ensuring that the government cannot obtain location information without a warrant, cannot access internet browsing and search history without a warrant, and cannot hoard irrelevant records indefinitely. Further, it reforms the FISA Court, strengthens the government’s transparency obligations, and establishes sunsets for National Security Letter authorities. These major reforms are as necessary as they are overdue, and the PATRIOT Act should not be reauthorized without them.”

“The surveillance capabilities intended to keep us safe from foreign threats have all too often trampled on Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights to due process. The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act would be an enormous step forward in securing those rights. It would also greatly increase the transparency and oversight needed to ensure that abuses such as the NSA’s phone metadata dragnet cannot happen again. FreedomWorks gladly supports this bill,” said Josh Withrow, Senior Policy Analyst for FreedomWorks.

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