Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ranking Member Conyers Statement on “USA FREEDOM Act” Manager’s Amendment

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a full committee Markup of H.R. 3361, the “USA FREEDOM Act.” Following Chairman Robert C. “Bob” Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduction of a Manager’s Amendment to the underlying legislation, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“The manager’s amendment pending before us is not a perfect vehicle. But let me also be clear: the compromise we have reached with Chairman Goodlatte is a far-reaching improvement over the status quo.  It remains, by far, the most important step taken to roll back the government’s surveillance of United States citizens since the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978,” said Conyers.

“This Committee stands poised to end domestic bulk collection across the board. The ban applies to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the FISA pen register authority, and the entire suite of National Security Letter statutes. In addition, we strengthen protections on U.S. person information collected under Section 702.  We enhance reporting and transparency requirements with respect to the use of each of these authorities. And we create a panel of civil liberties and privacy advocates from which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court may draw expertise and perspective in future decisions. Within this framework, we have worked to accommodate the Administration's request for a limited telephone metadata program. Of course, this program may be used only for counterterrorism purposes.  It will require a case-by-case judicial determination of reasonable, articulable suspicion before the government acquires a single call detail record.

In his January 17th remarks at the Department of Justice, President Obama observed that ‘critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future.’ We agree.  We have built those safeguards into this proposal.  And with the additional reporting, declassification, and transparency requirements also laid out in this bill, we believe the government would be both ill-advised and hard pressed to attempt to expand this new authority beyond our narrow intent.

As I remarked I earlier, I believe that we have arrived at a compromise that represents the legitimate consensus of the Congress and the American people. There is certainly more work to do. For example, in future hearings, we should take more time to examine the mechanics of collection under Section 702.  I am not convinced that we are doing all that we can to safeguard our privacy under that authority. We should also address the reach of surveillance under Executive Order 12333—and in particular, how that type of surveillance affects United States persons both at home and abroad. But today, I hope that we can come together to pass the meaningful changes outlined in this bill.

I thank Chairman Goodlatte for his willingness to stand up for this legislation and bring it to a markup. I thank Mr. Sensenbrenner for his tireless leadership on this issue. I thank Mr. Nadler and Mr. Scott for their determination to see this bill through. And I urge my colleagues to vote yes on the manager’s amendment. I yield back.”

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