National and Homeland Security
America will always face threats to its national security. For decades, Senator Leahy has worked to make sure that our intelligence and law enforcement professionals have the tools they need to prevent terrorism and combat other national security threats, while also working to protect the cherished privacy rights and civil liberties of Americans and ensuring that our actions are consistent with our Constitution, laws and values.
Senator Leahy has long been troubled by the broad nature of laws that permit the government to obtain large amounts of data about innocent Americans, including certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act. He worked to ensure that powerful government surveillance tools come with equally stringent oversight, accountability and transparency measures. In 2011 and 2012, Senator Leahy worked to improve both of these surveillance laws, but ultimately voted against reauthorizing them because they did not contain sufficient safeguards to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.
In the wake of revelations about National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs in 2013, Senator Leahy continued pushing for reforms to government surveillance powers. During the 113th Congress, Senator Leahy chaired multiple Judiciary Committee hearings on these issues and authored the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act to end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. The USA FREEDOM Act also contained important measures to bolster the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans, improve transparency of government surveillance programs, and make reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This important legislation was blocked from consideration in 2014.
Senator Leahy and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) again introduced this legislation in the 114th Congress. The Senate in June of 2015 passed the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act of 2015, an historic bill coauthored by Senators Leahy and Lee to rein in surveillance authorities for the first time since passage of the USA PATRIOT Act.
Senator Leahy is a leading voice in preserving America’s role as a champion of human rights and the rule of law around the world. He continues working in Congress to find a responsible solution to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and utilize our exceptional federal criminal courts to try terrorism suspects.
Senator Leahy has long been troubled by the legal rationale for using drones to conduct targeted killings overseas, particularly of American citizens. While the Obama administration has finally taken steps to improve transparency and articulate the government’s position on targeted killings, Senator Leahy continues oversight efforts to make additional information available to the public about the legal authorities upon which targeted killings rely.