The Brennan Center for Justice applauds Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to bring the USA FREEDOM Act to the floor for a vote.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, would prohibit the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records and other similar data. It also would give the secret “FISA Court” the option of hearing from lawyers who represent Americans’ privacy interests and require the government to disclose redacted versions or summaries of significant FISA Court opinions. Sen. Leahy’s bill has broad bipartisan support in Congress, as well as the support of the Obama administration and major civil liberties organizations, including the Brennan Center.
“Because of the NSA’s overreaching, our intelligence agencies have lost the trust of the American people and our allies,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program. “This bill would begin to restore that trust and strengthen not only our privacy but our security. There is no reason to continue a program that vacuums up the data of innocent Americans without any proven counterterrorism benefit.”
“Fixing bulk collection of metadata would be a great step towards protecting Americans’ privacy, and Congress should enact this bill,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program. “But that should be only the first step. Huge loopholes in other laws and rules allow the government to collect the content of our e-mails and phone calls and fundamentally undermine Americans’ freedom to speak freely without fear of attracting the attention of security agencies. The next step must be to close these gaps in Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and Executive Order 12333.”