Chairman Goodlatte: As we speak, thousands — no millions — of telephone metadata records are flowing into the NSA on a daily basis. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Despite changes to the NSA bulk telephone metadata program announced by President Obama last year, the bulk collection of the records has not ceased and will not cease unless and until Congress acts to shut it down.
Not even last week’s decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will end this collection. The responsibility falls to us and today we must answer the call and the will of the American people to do just that.
When we set out to reform this program one year ago, I made the pledge to my colleagues in Congress and to the American people that Americans’ liberty and America’s security can co-exist. That these fundamental concepts are not mutually exclusive. They are embedded in the very fabric that makes this nation great and that makes this nation an example for the world.
The legislation before the House today – H.R. 2048, the USA Freedom Act – protects these pillars of American democracy. It affirmatively ends the indiscriminate bulk collection of telephone metadata. But it goes much further than this. It prohibits the bulk collection of ALL records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, as well as under the FISA Pen Register Trap and Trace Device statute and the National Security Letter statutes.
In place of the current bulk telephone metadata program, the USA Freedom Act creates a targeted program that allows the Intelligence Community to collect non-content call Freedom records held by the telephone companies, but only with the prior approval of the FISA Court and subject to the “Special Selection Term” limitation. The records provided to the government in response to queries will be limited to two “hops” and the government’s handling of any records it acquires would be governed by minimization procedures approved by the FISA Court.
The USA Freedom Act prevents government overreach by strengthening the definition of “specific selection term,” – the mechanism used to prohibit bulk collection – to ensure the government can collect the information it needs to further a national security investigation while also prohibiting large-scale, indiscriminate collection, such as data from an entire state, city, or zip code.
The USA Freedom Act strengthens civil liberties and privacy protections by authorizing the FISA Court to appoint an individual to serve as amicus curiae from a pool of experts to advise the Court on matters of privacy and civil liberties, communications technology, and other technical or legal matters. It also codifies important procedures for recipients of National Security Letters to challenge nondisclosure requests.
The bill increases transparency by requiring declassification of all significant FISA Court opinions and provides procedures for certified questions of law to the FISA Court of Review and the Supreme Court.
Additionally, H.R. 2048 requires the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to provide the public with detailed information about how the Intelligence Community uses these national security authorities, and provides even more robust transparency reporting by America’s technology companies.
The USA Freedom Act enhances America’s national security by
- closing loopholes that make it difficult for the government to track foreign terrorists and spies as they enter or leave the country;
- clarifying the application of FISA to foreign targets who facilitate the international proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
- increasing the maximum penalties for material support of a foreign terrorist organization; and
- extending the sunsets of the expiring PATRIOT Act provisions to December 2019.
From beginning to end, this is a carefully crafted, bipartisan bill that enjoys wide support. I would like to thank the sponsor of this legislation, Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, Full Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, and Intellectual Property Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerry Nadler for working together with me on this important bipartisan legislation.
I also want to thank the staffs of these Members for the many hours, weeks and months of hard work they put into this effort. Furthermore, I would like to thank my staff – Caroline Lynch, the Chief Counsel of the Crime Subcommittee, and Jason Herring – for their long hours and steadfast dedication to this legislation.
I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.