Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement, as prepared, on the House floor in support of H.R. 6172, the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020:
"Madam Speaker, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—or FISA—authorizes the government to collect foreign intelligence in the United States under the supervision of a secret court.
"It is one of the most complicated, technical statutes we handle.
"But the story of FISA, and how Congress reacts to its use, is really very simple.
"Some measure of surveillance is necessary to keep our country safe. Left unchecked, however, the executive branch is all too willing to unleash its considerable surveillance capabilities on the American people.
"Our job, as members of Congress, is to provide that critical check—to claw back authorities that go too far, and to press for changes that protect our civil liberties to the maximum extent possible.
"H.R. 6172, the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act, is one step in that ongoing project.
"It is by no means a perfect bill. There are many other changes to FISA that I would have liked to have seen here—but this bill includes important reforms
"First and foremost, it ends the NSA’s call detail records program, which began as part of a secret and unlawful surveillance project almost twenty years ago.
"This experiment has run its course, and our responsibility is to bring it to its formal end.
"This bill also prohibits the use of Section 215 to acquire information that would otherwise require a warrant in the law enforcement context. Our understanding of the Fourth Amendment has come to recognize a privacy interest in our physical location, and this legislation provides new protections accordingly.
"And, as the law continues to evolve, the public will see how the government applies these standards in the FISA court. This bill requires the government to disclose all significant opinions of the FISA court within 180 days.
"The bill also requires a one-time historical review of all significant opinions issued by the court since its inception. The Department of Justice may have good cause to classify the details of any particular case, but there is no reason that important interpretations of the law should be secret any longer.
"Now, since we circulated the original draft of this bill, we have heard from a wide range of stakeholders—from the most progressive members of the Democratic caucus to the staunchest supporters of President Trump—and they convinced us to make additional changes.
"To address the concerns of those who seek additional guarantees for privacy, we have added new retention limits, new reports to explain key legal issues, and an explicit prohibition on the use of Section 215 to obtain GPS and cell site location information.
"Other members asked us to address the deep, structural flaws in FISA identified by the Inspector General in the report issued late last year.
"We have done just that. Working with our Republican colleagues, we have mandated additional transparency in FISA applications, created additional scrutiny for cases that involve elected officials, and elevated the consequences for misrepresenting information to the FISA court.
"I should also address the members, on both sides the aisle, who urge opposition to this bill because it does not contain every reform we might have wanted.
"Madam Speaker, I am no fan of the underlying authorities.
"I represent lower Manhattan. I was in Congress when the World Trade Center was hit.
"Then and now, I resent that the government exploited 9/11 to pass the PATRIOT Act and other measures that I find dangerous and overbroad.
"For many years, I led the opposition to reauthorization of the business records provision of FISA. I am a founding member of what was then called the PATRIOT Act Reform Caucus.
"I have voted against every FISA bill that did not contain significant reform.
"But the measure before us today does contain significant reform—again, not every change we would like to see, but decisive steps in the right direction.
"And we are taking that step as we should—together, in bipartisan fashion, and in complete agreement that, when it comes to safeguarding our civil liberties, we still have a great deal of work to do.
"I urge my colleagues to support this measure, and I reserve the balance of my time."