WASHINGTON – Today, during debate on the House Floor of H.R. 2048, the “USA FREEDOM Act,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. urged his colleagues to vote in support of measure. Rep. Conyers delivered the following remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, with the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act today, the House will have done its part to enact historic and sweeping reforms to the government’s surveillance powers. This legislation ends bulk collection, creates a panel of experts to guide the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and mandates extensive government reporting.
“Today, we have a rare opportunity to restore a measure of restraint to surveillance programs that have simply gone too far. For years, the government has read Section 215 of the Patriot Act to mean that it may collect all domestic telephone records, merely because some of them may be relevant at some time in the future.
“Last week, endorsing a view that I and many of mhave held for years, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that ‘the text of Section 215 cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign it, and . . . it does not authorizethe telephone metadata program.’
“Now, with Section 215 set to expire on June 1st, we have the opportunity—and the obligation—to act clearly and decisively and end a program that has infringed on our rights for far too long.
“A vote in favor of the USA Freedom Act is an explicit rejection of the government’s unlawful interpretation of Section 215 and similar statutes. Put another way: a vote in favor of this bill is a vote to end dragnet surveillance in the United States.
“The ban on bulk collection contained in this legislation turns on the idea of a ‘specific selection term’ and requires the government to limit the scope of production as narrowly as possible. This definition is much improved from the version of this bill that passed the House last Congress.
“The bill further requires the government to declassify and publish all novel and significant opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. It also creates a panel of experts to advise the court on the protection of privacy and civil liberties, communications technology, and other legal and technical matters.
“These changes—along with robust reporting requirements for the government and flexible reporting options for private companies—create a new and inescapable level of transparency. The government may one day again attempt to expand its surveillance powers by clever legal argument, but it will no longer be allowed to do so in secret.
“Mr. Speaker, there are members of the House and Senate who oppose this bill because it does not include every reform to surveillance law we can imagine. And there are others who oppose it because it includes any changes to existing surveillance programs. But this bill represents a reasonable consensus and it will accomplish the most sweeping set of reforms to government surveillance in nearly 40 years.
“H.R. 2048 has earned the support of privacy advocates, private industry, the White House, and the intelligence community. It ends dragnet surveillance, and does so without diminishing our ability to protect this country.
“I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte, Mr. Sensenbrenner, and Mr. Nadler for working with me to bring a stronger version of the USA Freedom Act to the floor. I also want to thank Chairman Nunes and Ranking Member Schiff for helping us to reach this point.
“I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 2048, and I reserve the balance of my time.”
The House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly approved the USA Freedom Act by a vote of 25-2 on April 30, 2015.
Click on any of the links below to learn more about what how the USA FREEDOM Act would protect Americans’ civil liberties, while strengthening our national security.