CONGRESSMAN LIEU STATEMENT ON USA FREEDOM ACT

May 13, 2015
Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 13, 2015
CONTACT: Jack d’Annibale | 202-330-1613

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-CA) released the following statement in response to H.R. 2048, the USA Freedom Act of 2015, which is scheduled to be considered by the House of Representatives later today. H.R. 2048 is the first major foreign intelligence reform legislation to clear either house of Congress following Edward Snowden’s revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) is spying on American citizens. Congressman Lieu serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security.

“I will be voting NO on H.R. 2048, which extends Section 215 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” said Congressman Lieu. “While I appreciate a number of the reforms in the bill and understand the need for secure counter-espionage and terrorism investigations, I believe our nation is better served by allowing Section 215 to expire completely and replacing it with a measure that finds a better balance between national security interests and protecting the civil liberties of Americans.” 

“The National Security Agency (NSA) and other federal agencies have used Section 215 as a cover to violate the constitutional rights of Americans for years with open-ended data gathering operations that are not properly addressed by the USA Freedom Act. Further, the bill does not include minimization language from previous versions to require the express destruction of information that is irrelevant to criminal investigations.”

“Beyond Section 215, I am troubled that the USA Freedom Act would leave in place Sections 505 and 702, provisions that also allow sweeping data collection and backdoor searches circumventing encryption that can result in the collection of information of U.S. citizens not identified in warrants.  The loopholes left in place will continue to undermine the trust of the American people. That trust needs to be earned back under leadership that is committed to constitutional principles.”   

“A federal district court struck down the NSA’s spying on Americans and called the NSA PRISM program ‘Orwellian.’ A federal appellate court ruled last week that the NSA’s bulk collection program was illegal. Despite these two court decisions, the NSA continues to operate its unconstitutional and illegal programs. Thus, even when the NSA has been told by the third branch of government that NSA is engaging in illegal activity, the NSA still continues to violate the law. The fact that the NSA used its illegal interpretation of Section 215 and kept it secret without any checks from the rubber-stamp FISA Court means that far-reaching legislation is required to address these issues and rebuild public trust in government.”

“Finally, I am disappointed the USA Freedom Act will be considered under a “closed rule,” meaning Members will not be able to consider any amendments to the Act on the House floor.  Amendments that would have protected whistleblowers and banned backdoor encryption mandates would have put appropriate civil liberties protections into the bill.”

“I thank the Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee for their sincere efforts at reform. This bill is better than past efforts to reform the abuses of the NSA. However, until we have legislation that adequately addresses these loopholes and lack of accountability, I cannot vote to continue to give the federal government far reaching powers without stronger safeguards.”  

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