Friday, May 23, 2014

Ranking Member Conyers Floor Statement on the “USA FREEDOM Act”

(WASHINGTON) – This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives debated H.R. 3361, the “USA FREEDOM Act.” As the debate began, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement on the House Floor:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“The version of the bill pending before us today is not a perfect vehicle.  There is more we can do — and must do — to ensure ‘[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and affects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.’ But let me be clear: the compromise bill before us today is a significant improvement over the status quo.  And it is a good bill.

“With this legislation we stand poised to end domestic bulk collection across the board — in Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, in the pen register authority, and in the National Security Letter statutes — by requiring the use of a ‘specific selection term’ before the government may obtain information or tangible things. This legislation will create a panel of experts from which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court can draw expertise in questions involving privacy, civil liberties, and technology. It will also require the court to disclose every significant opinion it issues — because in this country there should be no such thing as secret law. And we have accomplished all these things while providing President Obama with his requested authority for the limited, prospective collection of call detail records.

“Any bill we might have offered on this subject would have been imperfect. But we have been careful to include critical safeguards in this legislation. With the additional reporting, declassification, and transparency requirements laid out in this bill, we believe the government would be hard pressed to attempt to expand its surveillance authorities beyond the narrow intent of this legislation. As the Administration stated yesterday in a formal statement of policy, the USA FREEDOM Act ‘prohibits bulk collection.’ This is our intent.  And we will hold the current, and future, administrations to this intent.

“In closing, I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte, Mr. Sensenbrenner, Mr. Nadler, and Mr. Scott for their tireless leadership on this issue. I also want to thank Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Ruppersperger for their willingness to work with us to reach this point. The House is poised to approve the first significant rollback of any aspect of government surveillance since the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978. We must seize this opportunity. I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 3361, and I reserve the balance of my time.”

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