Demand Progress Endorses FISA Reform Bill

The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act would significantly reform warrantless surveillance authorities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2020
Contact: Sean Vitka, [email protected]

Today, Senators Daines (R-MT) and Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Lofgren (D-CA), Jayapal (D-WA), and Davidson (R-OH) announced the Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act. The legislation significantly reforms a number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorities, in particular Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Section 215 was the legal authority unlawfully relied on by the government to justify the National Security Agency’s bulk telephone metadata dragnet, first revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. That dragnet and its successor, the Call Detail Records program, have never been shown to offer intelligence value, and the successor was terminated after it acquired an unknown amount of information unlawfully. Text of the Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act is available here, and a summary is available here.

Demand Progress Education Fund and the FreedomWorks Foundation have released several materials explaining Section 215 at www.Section215.org, including an extensive examination of publicly known violations of the laws and rules governing call records surveillance as well as a graphic timeline of the same.

The following statement can be attributed to Sean Vitka, counsel for Demand Progress:

“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. Even though the Call Detail Records program was terminated in late 2018, collapsing under its own weight, the statutory authority for it still exists. 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.”

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