Washington, D.C. – Today, 49 members sent a bipartisan letter to the leadership of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees calling for meaningful surveillance reform as Congress considers whether to reauthorize Section 215 and other provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The letter was led by Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02), Congressman Andy Biggs (AZ-05), and Congressman Warren Davidson (OH-08).
“Disclosures over the past several years make clear that existing expansive surveillance powers pose an unacceptable threat to civil rights and civil liberties. These laws contain numerous loopholes that can be exploited to improperly surveil people based on speech, race, religion, and other impermissible factors,” the letter reads. “Members should be given the opportunity to consider and vote on surveillance reform legislation as a standalone measure in the House, and not tucked into an expansive omnibus or budget bill.”
The letter outlines six key criteria for meaningful, bipartisan surveillance reform:
- Repeal the call detail record authority under Section 215 and place limits on other intelligence programs, such as Section 702 of FISA.
- Impose a strict prohibition on surveillance that threatens First Amendment protected activities or discriminates on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, or other protected characteristics.
- Prevent large-scale collection under the Patriot Act and limit the types of information that can be obtained under Patriot Act authorities.
- Set forth strict limits on querying, using, retaining, and sharing information for criminal and other unrelated purposes and ensure that the government provides notice to individuals when information obtained or derived from these authorities is used against them.
- Establish sufficient transparency for the public to measure whether reforms are working and how intelligence authorities are being used.
- Adopt structural reforms to the FISA court to ensure that civil liberties and privacy arguments are appropriately considered.
“For far too long, the Executive Branch has taken advantage of invasive and unconstitutional surveillance powers. There’s no question that Section 215 undermines Americans’ basic civil rights and liberties,” said CPC Co-Chairs Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and Congressman Mark Pocan. “As Congress debates a reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, we have a rare opportunity to pass bipartisan legislation that will end sweeping, unconstitutional surveillance. Under no circumstances should House Democrats allow a long-term extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act without making meaningful reforms to surveillance powers. We are committed to negotiating these critical reforms and look forward to working with Democratic leadership over the next few months to get this done.”
“Our Fourth Amendment rights deserve to be protected with the same fervor as every right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Yet, Congress continues to reauthorize some of the worst portions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, ones that allow the government to infringe upon civil rights and liberties. I am thankful for my colleagues’ work to propose meaningful reforms that balance our national security interests while stemming the access to and use of Americans’ private information.
“While I am disappointed to learn that Congress is extending authorization of Section 215 for an additional 90 days, I look forward to the opportunity to propose necessary reforms when the legislation is considered again in 2020,” said Congressman Andy Biggs (AZ-05).
“Congress has let privacy concerns fall by the wayside, ignoring the civil liberties issue of our time. A FISA Court recently acknowledged that intelligence communities regularly violate innocent Americans’ privacy. I’m glad this coalition is speaking up to start curbing these abuses,” said Congressman Warren Davidson (OH-08)
The letter is available here.