ICYMI: Judiciary Committee Leaders Unveil the USA Liberty Act
Earlier today, 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), Representative John Rutherford (R-Fla.), and Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) held a press conference to unveil the USA Liberty Act. This bipartisan bill, which will be introduced tomorrow, reforms and reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to protect national security and civil liberties. A summary of the bill can be found here.
Watch the press conference here.
Below are Chairman Goodlatte’s prepared remarks for the press conference.
Chairman Goodlatte: Good Morning. Thank you all for being here today.
The House Judiciary Committee has primary jurisdiction over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and over the past several years we have had tremendous, bipartisan success in ensuring that our national security tools protect Americans’ lives and their civil liberties.
In June 2015, the USA Freedom Act, a product of the House Judiciary Committee, was signed into law. This law reformed Section 215 of FISA, ended the bulk collection of data, protected civil liberties and national security, and provided robust oversight and transparency of our vital national security tools.
This year, the House Judiciary Committee has been hard at work again on crafting legislation to reform and reauthorize FISA Section 702, which is set to expire at the end of this year.
This authority targets the communications of non-U.S. persons 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.
While Congress designed this authority to target non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States, it is clear that the Section 702 surveillance program can and does incidentally collect information about U.S. persons when they communicate with the foreign targets of Section 702 surveillance.
The program must be reauthorized with reforms to better safeguard Americans’ civil liberties and strengthen national security. Today, we are pleased to announce that we have reached a bipartisan agreement to do just that.
Tomorrow, we plan to introduce the USA Liberty Act. This bill preserves the core purpose of Section 702: the collection of communications by targeted non-U.S. persons 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.
We’ve provided a detailed summary of the bill for you but I’d like to point out a few of the bill’s key provisions.
First, the bill addresses concerns about national security tools being used to advance criminal prosecutions in the United States. The USA Liberty Act prohibits law enforcement agencies from reading Section 702 content to search for evidence against Americans in routine criminal investigations without a court order based upon probable cause.
Second, the bill contains new accountability and transparency requirements to address the unmasking of U.S. person identities, which has been a source of great concern for many Members and their constituents. Agencies will be required to document unmasking requests and approvals, and report to Congress on that information, so we can exercise our constitutional oversight responsibilities and protect Americans’ privacy.
Third, the USA Liberty Act increases oversight of foreign intelligence collection, particularly under FISA Section 702. The bill contains a number of reporting requirements, such as providing Congress an update twice a year on the number of U.S. persons whose communications are incidentally collected.
And fourth, the bill enhances national security, not only by ensuring the purpose of 702 remains intact, but by providing increased penalties for those that mishandle classified information, and encouraging the intelligence community to share information with each other and with our allies.
I am now going to yield to the gentleman from Michigan, Ranking Member John Conyers, for his remarks.