Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, delivered the following statement in support of the USA Liberty Act. The legislation, which passed in the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 27-8, will bring substantial, bi-partisan reforms to the federal government's Section 702 electronic surveillance programs. Congressman Nadler is an original cosponsor of the USA Liberty Act, which institutes a requirement for a warrant—based on probable cause—for criminal investigators to query 702-obtained information, significantly curbs the amount of incidental information that can be searched, and, most importantly, introduces critical operational norms for the 702 program that make it more accountable, more transparent, and ultimately more effective.
Below is Rep. Nadler’s full statement, as prepared, in support of the USA Liberty Act:
“Mr. Chairman, I rise to support the USA Liberty Act and I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation.
“I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers for working in good faith on the USA Liberty Act, a bill to reform government surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
“This bill is really a continuation of our work together on the USA Freedom Act, where we took major steps to end bulk collection of information by the government and promised to work together to reform the 702 program as well. The bill we have here today is a fulfilment of that promise. The USA Liberty Act is an attempt to strike the appropriate balance, giving our intelligence agencies the tools they need to keep us safe while making sure individual liberty and privacy rights are protected.
“There are many good aspects to this bill, but there are three main provisions that I want to stress:
“First, the bill institutes a requirement for a warrant—based on probable cause—in order for criminal investigators to query the information obtained by the 702 program. This is a key improvement. For the first time we are requiring the government to have a warrant before obtaining information on U.S. persons for criminal investigations.
“Second, the bill prohibits “about” collection. “About” collection leads to the gathering of much more information than just “to” and “from” details of communication. Therefore, this legislation significantly curbs the amount of incidental information that can be searched. I understand that the agencies have already limited “about” collection in response to court orders, but we are now enshrining that prohibition in law to guarantee this information remains off-limits.
“Third, the bill has a sunset. We are not simply giving the government unlimited power to surveil U.S. persons indefinitely. This is a temporary program, with reporting requirements and the promise of oversight that comes as the result of provisions that have a sunset.
“And that leads me to my final point, which is the institution of real transparency and accountability. The legislation we have drafted creates critical operational norms for the 702 program. These procedures make the program more accountable, more transparent, and ultimately more effective in striking the critical balance between national security needs and the individual’s constitutional rights.
“What we have produced so far is a compromise. We have welcomed, and we very much appreciate, the input of the intelligence and civil liberties communities and their suggestions for reform. And many of their suggestions have been incorporated in the bill.
“I admit that I find some of their additional suggested edits compelling, particularly when it comes to requiring a warrant for all backdoor searches.
“But the question before us today is what is the proper balance and what can we pass? How much change can we bring to the program and still get it to pass the House and Senate and be signed into law?
“I yield back the balance of my time. ”