WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of H.R. 3989, the USA Liberty Act of 2017.
Watch the statement here.
See the full transcript below:
Congress created Section 702 authority to address an intelligence-collection gap that resulted from changes in technology in the years after FISA became law in 1978. Section 702 permits the government to conduct targeted surveillance of foreign individuals reasonably believed to be located outside the United States. This statute is necessary because a significant share of the world’s communications passes through the United States, even when they begin and end overseas.
Section 702 has been described as one of the most efficient and vital programs to protect our national security. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) similarly found that “the information the program collects has been valuable and effective in protecting the nation’s security and producing useful foreign intelligence.
This is not to say that reforms aren’t needed. Section 702 surveillance programs incidentally collect information about U.S. persons. Reforms are needed to better safeguard Americans’ civil liberties and new protections and transparency requirements are needed to ensure that the government’s use of Section 702 aligns with principles of privacy and due process.
I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Uniting and Strengthening American (USA Liberty) Act of 2017. This carefully crafted, bipartisan legislation represents the type of common sense compromise that our country needs and deserves. It balances privacy and security by requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability of the government’s surveillance powers while limiting the incidental collection of Americans’ communications and requiring a court order to query data. It also puts in place a six-year sunset provision, allowing Congress to reexamine the legislation as our society – and everything that threatens it – continues to evolve.
The legislation makes several other key changes: ending so-called “about” collection, creating a presumption that a court-appointed expert will be present in annual recertification hearings before the FISA court, additional whistleblower protections and increased penalties for knowingly mishandling classified information.
While some have advocated for a clean and permanent reauthorization of Section 702, I believe this would amount to dereliction of duty by Congress, and it would hinder its ability to respond to the changing demands of a technological world. By maintaining FISA sunsets, lawmakers are able to review actions taken by government agencies and ensure that citizens’ constitutional rights are being upheld, as well as make any necessary reforms to the law.
The USA Liberty Act will bring much needed reform on how the federal government collects information gathering for foreign intelligence, counterterrorism, and criminal purposes. The legislation builds off of the success of the USA Freedom Act by finding the appropriate balance between privacy and national security. I thank the Chairman, Ranking Member Conyers and Ranking Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackson Lee for their hard work and I urge my colleagues to support the bill.