Thursday, December 19, 2013

After Federal Ruling, Conyers Renews Calls for Legislative Hearings on Surveillance Reform

(DETROIT) – Today, U.S. House Judiciary Chairman Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) responded to U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s ruling yesterday that the National Surveillance Agency’s (NSA) bulk metadata collection program, which collects information on virtually all telephone calls in the United States, is likely unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. Specifically, Judge Leon, who is an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote that the plaintiffs “have a very significant expectation of privacy in an aggregated collection of their telephone metadata covering the last five years, and the NSA’s Bulk Telephony Metadata Program significantly intrudes on that explanation.” Following this ruling, Rep. Conyers issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr. 
“United States District Court Judge Leon’s ruling yesterday that this program is ‘likely unconstitutional’ marks a turning point in our efforts to restore the civil liberties that have eroded since the early days of the Bush Administration. Judge Leon has laid bare the questionable constitutional underpinnings of bulk collection and warrantless mass surveillance. Congress must now intensify its examination of the NSA’s telephone metadata program and other surveillance programs like it, and hold legislative hearings aimed at curing their constitutional defects,” said Conyers.

“Together, former Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and I introduced the USA FREEDOM Act to end bulk collection, increase transparency, and provide an advocate to argue on behalf of the public in the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  As the Judiciary Committee continues its work on surveillance reform, I call on Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to hold legislative hearings on this bill at the beginning of the 2014 session, with the goal of moving legislation thereafter.

“This past summer, Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and I offered an amendment to a Defense Department funding bill that would have ended the NSA’s metadata collection program. The amendment fell just 12 votes shy of passing—by far, the closest we have come to rolling back these programs since their enactment—and the bipartisan coalition we led last July has only grown in number and determination.  The more comprehensive USA FREEDOM Act has 115 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, among them more than half of members of the House Judiciary Committee.”

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