For Immediate Release
November 7, 2023
Today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and Representatives Warren Davidson (R-OH) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), introduced the Government Surveillance Reform Act of 2023. If enacted, the bill would require the federal government to obtain a warrant to access Americans’ communications acquired under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It would place restrictions on the government’s ability to buy sensitive personal data from third-party brokers and create basic rules to protect Americans against warrantless surveillance conducted from overseas.
Elizabeth Goitein, senior director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the following comment:
“On both the principle and the politics, this bill represents the right path forward for Section 702. It would protect Americans’ civil liberties and end the abuses that have resulted from warrantless backdoor searches. At the same time, it would preserve the government’s ability to use Section 702 to combat foreign threats, including fentanyl trafficking and cyberattacks. And its comprehensive approach to surveillance reform is the key to winning the support of members who might otherwise be willing to let Section 702 expire. If passed, this would be the most significant surveillance reform legislation since FISA itself.”
Section 702 allows the federal government to conduct warrantless surveillance of foreign intelligence targets overseas, but the surveillance also sweeps in large volumes of Americans’ communications, including their phone calls and text messages. Federal agencies routinely search this data without a warrant, and the FBI has engaged in widespread violations of the rules that apply to such searches.
Related Brennan Center Resources
- “We can fight fentanyl trafficking without violating Americans’ privacy” (The Hill, September 19, 2023)
- “Fixing FISA II,” testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance by Elizabeth Goitein (July 14, 2023)
- “The Year of Section 702 Reform, Part II: Closing the Gaps and Completing the Modernization of FISA”(Just Security, April 18, 2023)
- “The Year of Section 702 Reform, Part I: Backdoor Searches” (Just Security, February 13, 2023)