This week I decided to sign on as an original cosponsor of the USA Freedom Act. This legislation, sponsored by the original author of the Patriot Act and expected to be introduced on Tuesday, October 29, reforms current law to better protect the constitutional liberties of our nation’s citizens.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorized the collection of a limited amount of information (“business records”) in order to assist in terrorism investigations. However, in 2006, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) reinterpreted this provision to allow for the unlimited bulk collection of private information that is now stored by the National Security Agency (NSA). The USA Freedom Act would end this practice and at the same time, create more stringent reporting requirements for the FISC so that Congress and the American people are not blind-sided again by an expansion of powers at the expense of our civil liberties.
The USA Freedom Act will also create an Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) that will be tasked with advocating for privacy interests in front of the FISC. This provision is necessary because while the Patriot Act was developed as a necessary response to the horrible atrocities of September 11th, it is clear, as evidenced by the recent leaks outlining the broad collective authority in use by the NSA, that the law must be reformed.
I believe the NSA’s bulk collection program represents an excessive overreach that has sadly caused a deep distrust of our nation’s national security apparatus in the minds of most Americans. Unfortunately, it has also strained relationships with some of our closest international partners. The USA Freedom Act is a bipartisan approach to limit the ability of the NSA to infringe on Americans’ civil liberties and I am proud to support its passage in the House of Representatives.