Press Releases

Goodlatte, Conyers and Judiciary Committee Members Introduce the USA Liberty Act

Washington, DC, October 6, 2017
Tags: Crime

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) today introduced the USA Liberty Act (H.R. 3989). This bipartisan bill reforms and reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is set to expire at the end of this year, to protect both national security and Americans’ civil liberties.

The USA Liberty Act preserves the core purpose of Section 702: the collection of communications by targeting non-U.S. persons located outside the U.S. in order to identify and thwart terrorist plots against our nation and our citizens. The bill also creates a new framework of protections and transparency requirements to ensure that the government’s use of Section 702 accords with principles enshrined in our Constitution that protect individual liberty. It provides new accountability measures to address the unmasking of U.S. persons’ identities and new reporting requirements on the number of U.S. persons who have been swept up in Section 702 collection. The bill also enhances national security by increasing penalties for those who leak classified information and calling on the intelligence agencies to share information with each other and with our allies to combat terrorism.

Below are statements from Judiciary Committee leaders on the introduction of the USA Liberty Act.

Chairman Goodlatte: “The USA Liberty Act protects Americans’ lives and their civil liberties. This bipartisan bill reauthorizes a critical national security tool that keeps Americans safe but also reforms it to protect Americans’ constitutional rights. It contains more accountability, transparency, and oversight so that the American people have confidence that our cherished liberties continue to be protected as the intelligence community keeps us safe from foreign enemies wishing to harm our nation and citizens. The bill also contains a number of measures to further enhance national security so that our country remains free and safe. I thank the many members who have worked on this bill for months and look forward to bringing it up in the House Judiciary Committee soon.”

Ranking Member Conyers: “Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is essential to the intelligence community’s gathering of foreign intelligence and detecting threats to the homeland.  Its reauthorization should include reforms that bring this authority better in line with our sense of privacy and due process.  Indeed, we believe that it will only be possible to reauthorize Section 702 with such reforms in place. The bipartisan USA Liberty Act is designed to accomplish this goal.”

Crime Subcommittee Chairman Sensenbrenner: “The USA Liberty Act is carefully crafted, bipartisan legislation that represents the type of common sense compromise that we desperately need in this country. It balances privacy and security concerns by requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability of the government’s surveillance powers while limiting the incidental collection of Americans’ communications and requiring a court order to query data. It also puts in place a critical six-year sunset provision, allowing Congress to respond appropriately to the ever-changing threats facing our nation. This is smart, forward-leaning legislation that I urge my colleagues to get behind.”

Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Jackson Lee: “Collectively, what Democrats and Republicans have agreed on is a strategy that secures the homeland, while preserving cherished liberties that still make America the envy of the world.”

IP Subcommittee Ranking Member Nadler: “The USA Liberty Act is an attempt to strike the appropriate balance, as we did in the USA Freedom Act, of giving our intelligence agencies the tools they need to keep us safe while making sure individual liberty and privacy rights are better protected. For the first time, the bill institutes a requirement for a warrant—based on probable cause—for criminal investigators to query the information obtained by the 702 program. In addition, this legislation significantly curbs the amount of incidental information that can be searched, and, most importantly, institutes critical operational norms for the 702 program that make it more accountable, more transparent, and ultimately more effective in striking the critical balance between national security needs and the individual’s constitutional rights. I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers for working in good faith on the USA Liberty Act, which goes a long way in reforming government surveillance under Section 702.”

Additional original cosponsors of the bill include Representatives Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.) Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

Background: FISA Section 702, which will expire on December 31, 2017, authorizes surveillance of the communications of non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States in order to protect national security. It reportedly contributes to a quarter of all National Security Agency surveillance and has been used on multiple occasions to detect and prevent horrific terrorist plots against our country. Although Congress designed this authority to target non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States, it is clear that Section 702 surveillance programs can and do incidentally collect information about U.S. persons when U.S. persons communicate with the foreign targets of Section 702 surveillance.

Additional Resources:

Bill Text

Bill Summary

Press Conference