11.18.14

Leahy Calls On Senators To Protect Americans’ Privacy Rights & Support NSA Reform

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, November 18, 2014) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urged Senators to take up and pass the USA FREEDOM Act of 2014, which faces a critical procedural vote Tuesday night.

Leahy introduced the bipartisan legislation in July, after the Judiciary Committee had six public hearings on the nation’s surveillance authorities. Ahead of Tuesday night’s procedural vote, editorials in the Washington Post and the New York Times each called on the Senate to act before the end of the year.

In a floor statement Tuesday, Leahy said that “We cannot afford to delay action on these reforms any longer, as the American people continue to demand stronger protections for their privacy.”

Some would rather use scare tactics than legislate,” Leahy said.  “Some would have us wait while American businesses continue to lose tens of billions of dollars in the international marketplace.  Or we could even wait until we are facing down the expiration of Section 215 in a matter of months, thereby creating dangerous uncertainty and risk for the intelligence community. The American people have had enough delay; they want action and real reform.”

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.

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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On the USA FREEDOM ACT of 2014
Senate Floor
November 18, 2014

This week, the Senate has the opportunity to demonstrate that we can work in a constructive, bipartisan way to defend the privacy rights and civil liberties of innocent Americans, while protecting our national security.  The Senate should take up and pass the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 without further delay.

Last year, Americans learned that Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act had been secretly interpreted for years to authorize the bulk collection of their telephone records.  This disclosure led to numerous congressional hearings, including six public hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  And at least two panels of independent experts have concluded that the bulk collection program has not been essential to keeping our country safe. 

We now have wide, bipartisan agreement in both the Senate and the House that the bulk phone records collection program is not essential, that it violates Americans’ privacy, and that it needs to end.  So the question before Congress is not whether to end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, but when and how

The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 ends the NSA’s bulk collection program, but does so responsibly.  The bill contains key reforms to safeguard Americans’ privacy by prohibiting the indiscriminate collection of their data.  It also provides for greater accountability and transparency of the government’s surveillance programs, and it improves the FISA Court.  The bill also ensures that the intelligence community has the tools it needs to keep our country safe. 

These reforms were the product of several months of intense discussions and deliberations with the intelligence community and stakeholders from every perspective.  It has the unprecedented support of the Director of National Intelligence, the Attorney General, American technology companies, and privacy and civil liberties groups across the political spectrum – ranging from the ACLU and EFF to the NRA and TechFreedom.  The Director of the NSA and lawmakers from all parts of the political spectrum – from the right to left – support this bill because they know it is a reasonable and responsible compromise. 

We cannot afford to delay action on these reforms any longer, as the American people continue to demand stronger protections for their privacy.  Unfortunately, some would rather use scare tactics than legislate.  Some would have us wait while American businesses continue to lose tens of billions of dollars in the international marketplace.  Or we could even wait until we are facing down the expiration of Section 215 in a matter of months, thereby creating dangerous uncertainty and risk for the intelligence community.

The American people have had enough delay; they want action and real reform.  It is time to get back to work, to show leadership, and to govern this country responsibly.  The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 is an opportunity to do just that. 

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