Senator Leahy Introduces Historic Bill To Ban NSA’s Dragnet Collection Of Americans’ Electronic Communications

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–July 29, 2014 — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Tuesday introduced legislation that would restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities. 

The updated version of the USA FREEDOM Act released today builds on legislation passed in the House in May, as well as the original legislation Leahy introduced with Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) last October. The legislation bans bulk collection under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and other surveillance authorities, requires the government to narrow the scope of a search to a clearly defined “specific selection term,” adds needed transparency and reporting requirements, and provides key reforms to the FISA Court. In an editorial on Monday, the New York Times wrote “the bill represents a breakthrough in the struggle against the growth of government surveillance power.”

Leahy noted the legislation provides significant reforms of surveillance authorities, while carefully maintaining the role of law enforcement and intelligence agencies and their responsibility to protect national security.

“If enacted, this bill would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act 13 years ago,” Leahy said in a floor statement.  “This is an historic opportunity, and I am grateful that the bill has the support of the administration, a wide range of privacy and civil liberties groups, and the technology industry.” 

Over the last year, the Judiciary Committee under Leahy’s leadership has held six public hearings on the issue of government surveillance. Also during that time, Leahy has worked with the Intelligence Community and a wide range of stakeholders to craft legislation that could garner a broad range of support. The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 released today is cosponsored by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Leahy said that additional reforms beyond the USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 will be needed to further protect American’s privacy rights.

“This is a debate about Americans’ fundamental relationship with their government – about whether our government should have the power to create massive databases of information about its citizens,” Leahy said.  “I believe strongly that we must impose stronger limits on government surveillance powers – and I am confident that most Vermonters, and most Americans, agree with me.  We need to get this right, and we need to get it done without further delay.”

An outline of the USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 can be found here, and text of legislation can be found online. A list of supporters of the legislation can also be found online.