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Press Release

Bill Introduced in Senate to Stop Government’s Warrantless Surveillance of Americans; Brennan Center Reacts

Federal government would have to show probable cause and get a court order to access Americans’ communications obtained under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

March 12, 2024

For Immediate Release
March 13, 2024

Today Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Security and Freedom Enhancement Act of 2024 in the Senate. The bill would reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with added protections for Americans against warrantless government surveillance. It would require intelligence agencies to show probable cause and obtain a court order before accessing Americans’ communications under Section 702 and limit the government’s ability to purchase Americans’ information from commercial data brokers. 

Elizabeth Goitein, senior director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the following reaction:

“Senators Durbin and Lee have weighed in with a powerful, bipartisan reform bill. Critically, it would close the ‘backdoor search’ and ‘data broker’ loopholes that have allowed the government to evade both constitutional and statutory privacy protections. The government would have to obtain a court order before accessing Americans’ communications and other highly sensitive information. 

“The legislation strikes a reasonable balance among the many competing proposals that have been introduced in Congress, borrowing from each of them and making revisions where appropriate to address legitimate security needs. Although the bill does not include every change we would hope to see, it would be a massive improvement over a status quo that is disastrous for Americans’ civil liberties.”


Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance allows the federal government to conduct warrantless surveillance of foreign intelligence targets overseas, but this surveillance also sweeps in large volumes of Americans’ communications, including their phone calls and text messages. Federal agencies routinely get around the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless domestic surveillance by searching Americans’ data acquired under Section 702 – a process known as a “backdoor search” – and by purchasing Americans’ personal information from third-party companies known as “data brokers.”