Bipartisan Coalition Led By Senators Lee and Leahy Introduce Legislation to Ban Bulk Collection Under Section 215

Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Tuesday introduced legislation to restore Americans’ eroded privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.  

An identical bill was introduced in the House on Tuesday, and lawmakers from across the political spectrum called on Congressional leaders to take up the measure ahead of a key deadline for expiring surveillance authorities.

The USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 ends bulk collection under Section 215 and requires greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities.  Three provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), including Section 215, are due to sunset on June 1.
Last Congress, Senator Leahy convened six hearings of the Judiciary Committee to examine the scope of the bulk collection program and the need for greater transparency.  Senators Lee and Leahy also joined together last year with a host of bipartisan cosponsors to introduce the USA FREEDOM Act of 2014.  Unfortunately, that legislation was blocked from consideration in November.  Since then, both Senators have continued to work across the aisle and with their counterparts in the House of Representatives to find a way forward to end bulk collection of Americans’ data under Section 215.
Senator Lee said: “The Fourth Amendment safeguards liberty by protecting against government abuse of power.  Indiscriminate collection of data about Americans is a dangerous tool in the hands of government.  Members of Congress cannot continue to grant such broad discretion to secretive government agencies.  Our liberty is threatened when government claims the power to spy on its own citizens.  That is why I am co-sponsoring the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 which finds the proper balance national security and privacy.”

Senator Leahy said:  “Today we are introducing a bill to end the NSA’s bulk collection program.  The bipartisan, bicameral USA FREEDOM ACT of 2015 is the product of intense and careful negotiations between the House and Senate.  If enacted, our bill will usher in the most significant reform to government surveillance authorities since the USA PATRIOT Act.  I commend Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, Congressman Sensenbrenner, and Congressman Nadler for their bipartisan efforts in the House.  Together with our coalition in the Senate, we show today that there is a bipartisan path forward to end the NSA’s dragnet surveillance and protect Americans’ privacy rights.” 

The Senate version of the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 released today is cosponsored by Senators Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).  It also has the support of the administration, privacy groups, and the technology industry.   An identical bill was introduced today in the House of Representatives by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and others.

An outline of the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 can be found here, and text of legislation can be found online.