(WASHINGTON) – Today, John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, joined former Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wisc.) and 79 other members of the House in introducing H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act: United and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet Collection, and Online Monitoring Act. H.R. 3361 will end the bulk collection of Americans’ communications records, create an Office of the Special Advocate to represent privacy interests in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and increase government oversight and public scrutiny of the government’s domestic surveillance programs. After the legislation was introduced, Rep. Conyers issued the following statement:
John Conyers, Jr.
“Over the course of the past six months, the public has come to learn about the sweeping nature of our government’s surveillance programs. The picture drawn is one of a surveillance system run amuck. Our intelligence community has operated without proper congressional oversight or regard for Americans’ privacy and civil liberties,” said Conyers.
“One of the most troubling abuses that has come to light is the National Security Agency’s (NSA) collection of telephone records for virtually every phone call made within the United States. Although the NSA has had every opportunity to make its case, it has not demonstrated that the telephone metadata collection program is of much value to its counterterrorism mission. Similarly, the government has failed to square its tortured reading of Section 215 the PATRIOT Act with the plain text of the statute, or with our clear intent when we authored that provision.
“Today, with the introduction of the USA FREEDOM Act, that all changes.
“Together with my colleague Congressman Sensenbrenner - the former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the current Chairman of our Crime Subcommittee, and the principal author of the USA PATRIOT Act - I have introduced a bill that will curb some of the worst excesses of the government’s domestic surveillance operations. Specifically, the USA FREEDOM Act will:
Ø Preserve the responsible use of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act for cases that are actually relevant to an authorized counterterrorism investigation.
Ø Create an Office of the Special Advocate to represent the public interest and privacy concerns before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Ø Give private Internet and telecommunications companies the ability to publicly disclose certain information about their cooperation with the U.S. government.
Ø Increase transparency by making significant FISA Court decisions available to the public.
“This legislation is principled, bipartisan, and reasonable. It enjoys significant support in the House Judiciary Committee, the primary committee of jurisdiction for these matters. It stops short of simply ending all government surveillance under Section 215. It ends dragnet surveillance, and does so without compromising the intelligence community’s ability to keep us safe.
“Our bipartisan coalition is growing both in numbers and resolve. We must act now to restore our privacy, and to reject the false choice between security and civil liberties.”
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