Skip to content
The House of Representatives today passed H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act, by a vote of 303-121, which was introduced by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee when we passed the PATRIOT Act, which made our country safer while maintaining the civil liberties that differentiate us from our enemies. But the government abused the law and upset the delicate balance between privacy and security. Today, after months of negotiations, the House publicly and unequivocally rejected the notion of bulk collection by passing the USA FREEDOM Act. While I wish it more closely resembled the bill I originally introduced, the legislation passed today is a step forward in our efforts to reform the government’s surveillance authorities. It bans bulk collection, includes important privacy provisions and sends a clear message to the NSA: We are watching you. I hope the Senate works expeditiously and eagerly await looking over the President’s shoulder as he signs the USA FREEDOM Act into law.”

View Congressman Sensenbrenner’s prepared floor remarks here.
View video here.
It’s no secret that Congress has grown more divisive over the past decade, so it’s gratifying—even nostalgic—for me to see the USA FREEDOM Act, which I authored, pass through the House Judiciary Committee unanimously by a vote of 32-0. The House Intelligence Committee followed suit and approved my bill by voice vote the following day.

I remember the Judiciary Committee similarly coming together after the September 11 attacks, passing the USA PATRIOT Act with unanimous, bipartisan support.  Our actions in 2001 made the country safer, while also protecting the cherished civil liberties that distinguish us from our enemies. Over time, however, the government misapplied the law we passed.
 
After revelations of NSA overreach surfaced last summer, I knew Congress had to act to protect the civil liberties of innocent Americans. As a result, in October of last year, I introduced the USA FREEDOM Act with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy. Since the bill’s introduction, I have worked with members of Congress in both chambers from across the political spectrum and incorporated reform ideas from privacy groups, legal experts, tech companies, allied governments and the American people.


The amended Freedom Act makes it crystal clear that Congress does not endorse bulk collection and ensures Americans’ civil liberties are protected, while maintaining the necessary tools to protect our national security. While there have been many speed bumps along the way, the path forward is clear. I eagerly await looking over the President’s shoulder as he signs the USA FREEDOM Act into law.
Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act, by a vote of 32-0, which was introduced by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). Today, the House Intelligence Committee passed the bill unanimously by voice vote.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “The House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees passed the USA FREEDOM Act, which presents a clear path forward for the House and Senate.  Compromises made with the Intelligence Committee are consistent with our original goals to rein in the NSA and strike the proper balance between civil liberties and national security. I look forward to seeing the USA FREEDOM Act quickly enacted into law.”

The House Judiciary Committee today passed H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act, which Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced last October. A substitute amendment was offered by Congressman Sensenbrenner on behalf of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Congressmen Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Randy Forbes (R-Va.), which was accepted by the Committee.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Today, the Judiciary Committee came together to address one of the most pressing issues facing our nation. The Committee voted unanimously to rein in the NSA, end bulk collection and ensure Americans’ civil liberties are protected, while keeping intact the necessary tools to protect our national security. I thank my colleagues, privacy groups, legal experts, tech companies, allied governments and the American people for their input, and urge the House and Senate to promptly pass the USA FREEDOM Act.”

View Opening Statement, Manager’s Amendment: here
The separation of powers—reinforced through checks and balances—is a bedrock principle of our political system. It limits overreach by the executive branch and prevents the over-centralization of power. The primary mechanism of the legislative branch to thwart executive branch overreach is congressional oversight.

Effective oversight, however, requires truthful testimony from executive branch officials. On March 12, 2013, during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence panel, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, “Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Director Clapper answered “No, Sir.”  Wyden pressed, “It does not?”  Clapper replied, “There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”

Declassified documents reveal that Director Clapper’s testimony was false, and further, that he knew it was false when offering it. Congress is currently considering proposals regarding intelligence gathering reform. In considering these proposals, we need assurances that Congress can adequately conduct oversight following new legislation.

Once again, the Administration that promised to be the most transparent in history has fallen short. It has hidden monumental Fourth Amendment abuses behind the veil of national security. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on April 8, 2014, I questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about Clapper’s untruthful testimony:


 

Although the Attorney General was evasive, I am committed to pursuing the truth. If Congressional oversight depends on truthful testimony, government officials cannot be permitted to lie with impunity.



Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) introduced a bill today to amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to establish a United States Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs. Currently, 20 government agencies are handling Arctic policy.  Under this legislation, an Ambassador would be charged with all coordination and serve as Chair of the Arctic Council when the U.S. assumes Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2015-2017.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “We need someone with ambassadorial rank to show that the U.S. is serious about being an Arctic nation. As Russia continues to act aggressively, including making claims in the Arctic, and as China states its own interest, the U.S. must coordinate its Arctic policy and protect its domestic energy supply at the highest level.”

Congressman Larsen: “The Arctic is fast becoming the 21st century version of the Northwest Passage. An ambassador-level position takes an important step to coordinate U.S. commercial, environmental and security interests in the region. The position also signals our country’s commitment to international cooperation on Arctic policy.”
It has been reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) has long been aware of the Heartbleed bug and exploited it to obtain information.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “The NSA’s purpose is to protect Americans. But if media reports are accurate, rather than fixing the Heartbleed bug, the NSA exploited it to gather information, leaving Americans vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Once again, the NSA proved blind to the interests of every day Americans in its single-minded pursuit of information. This calls into serious question what the intelligence community does behind its dark cloud of secrecy and is yet another example of how our privacy and data security have been cast aside in the name of national security.”
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent the following letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting a response to a December 19, 2013 letter regarding Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s false testimony.

Dear Attorney General Holder,

On December 19 of last year, I wrote, along with six of my colleagues, to request that you investigate Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for his “erroneous” testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last year.  Nearly three-and-a-half months later, we have not received a response or an update on the status of your investigation.  

On March 12, 2013, Senator Ron Wyden asked Director Clapper, “Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Director Clapper answered “No, Sir.”  Wyden pressed, “It does not?”  Clapper replied, “There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”  

Now declassified documents reveal that Director Clapper’s testimony was false, and further, that he knew it was false when it was offered. Congress is currently considering proposals regarding intelligence reform. In considering these proposals, we need assurances that we can adequately conduct oversight following new legislation. Congressional oversight, however, depends on truthful testimony. Intelligence officials cannot be permitted to lie with impunity.  

I respectfully request an update as soon as possible.