WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, the Senate rejected three amendments to the House-passed USA FREEDOM Act, a bill which ends bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s (FISA) pen/trap statute, and National Security Letters — clearing the way for a vote on the bill.
The bill also makes key reforms to the processes of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), declassifies all significant FISC opinions, and allows greater transparency on the scale of surveillance.
Specifically, the Senate rejected three amendments:
- S.A. 1449 (failed 43-56) – Would have required companies to notify the government before changing their data retention practices and certify that their new processes and procedures work
- S.A. 1450 (failed 44-54) – Would have needlessly extended the transition period from government collection of data to private companies’ retention of data from 180 days to 12 months
- S.A. 1451 (failed 42-56) – Would significantly weakened the provision allowing for amici, or “friends of the court,” to challenge intelligence agencies’ requests for data at FISC
“By watering down the USA FREEDOM Act, McConnell’s amendments would have been a poison pill for surveillance reform in the House,” said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom. “Fortunately, the Senate refused to weaken what’s already a carefully-crafted compromise among privacy advocates, businesses, and the intelligence community. Leader McConnell’s amendments to the USA FREEDOM Act would have needlessly extended bulk collection, diluted FISA court oversight, and burdened businesses with a pointless data retention notification and certification requirement.”
- Coalition letter opposing data retention mandates on the private sector
- “McConnell is Playing a Dangerous Game with the PATRIOT Act,” a statement from TechFreedom
- “The Senate Should Move Quickly on Surveillance Reform,” a statement from TechFreedom
- Coalition letter urging Senator McConnell Not to Fast-Track the PATRIOT Act
TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.