Skip to content
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon today issued a decision, ruling that the NSA’s metadata collection program is likely unconstitutional.   

Questioning the constitutionality of the collection program, Judge Leon wrote: “The Government, in its understandable zeal to protect our homeland, has crafted a counterterrorism program with respect to telephony metadata that strikes the balance based in large part on a thirty-four year old Supreme Court precedent, the relevance of which has been eclipsed by technology advances and a cell phone-centric lifestyle heretofore inconceivable.”

He also stated: “The Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.”

Leon granted “an injunction and enter[ed] an order that (1) bars the government from collection, as part of the NSA’s Bulk Telephony Metadata Program, any telephony metadata associated with their personal Verizon accounts and (2) requires the Government to destroy any such metadata in its possession that was collected through the bulk collection program.”

Leon will stay his order pending an appeal. “In doing so, I hereby give the Government fair notice that should my ruling be upheld, this order will go into effect forthwith.”

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “Judge Leon’s decision further highlights the need to pass the USA FREEDOM Act. The slow trickle of revelations that began in June about NSA spying have exposed the most intrusive and secretive programs in American history. From the onset, I have been extremely critical of the government’s dragnet collection of Americans’ data.  I am encouraged by the district court’s ruling. It will add to the growing momentum behind the USA FREEDOM Act, which has garnered support from a large, diverse bloc of my colleagues and the business community. The Executive Branch should join Congress to institute meaningful reform.”

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the USA FREEDOM Act on October 29. This legislation would restore Americans’ privacy rights by reining in the dragnet collection of data by the NSA and other government agencies, increase transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), provide businesses the ability to release information regarding FISA requests and create an independent constitutional advocate to argue cases before the FISC.

The USA FREEDOM Act currently has 115 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 18 in the Senate. It also has the support of tech giants AOL, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Mozilla and others.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and several other members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing concerns with the EPA’s lack of transparency in its public outreach process regarding proposed greenhouse gas regulations for power plants.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “People around the country deserve an opportunity to weigh in on policies that directly affect their lives. But instead of conducting an honest discussion, the EPA’s listening session tour amounted to nothing more than a publicity stunt. The EPA’s proposed regulations on carbon emissions will have damning effects on jobs, energy costs and the economy – especially in states like Wisconsin that rely on coal-fueled power plants. But not one listening session was held in Wisconsin. The EPA’s disingenuous attempt at transparency is a slap in the face to all Americans who will be directly affected by its regulatory power grab.”  
The NSA's overreach has infringed on American civil liberties, damaged diplomatic efforts with our allies and tarnished the integrity of the intelligence community.

Of course, this debate over the NSA's bulk collection of phone records is no longer simply a discussion about balancing national security and privacy. Americans' personal information, constitutional rights and livelihoods are at stake. Citizens and businesses of Wisconsin's Fifth District and around the country have been very clear: the indiscriminate, bulk collection of Americans' data must be stopped.

Congress has an obligation to hold the NSA accountable and deliver effective reforms that strengthen personal privacy safeguards and individual control over our most sensitive information. That’s why I joined with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to introduce the USA FREEDOM Act, which would end bulk collection, reform the secret FISA Court, increase transparency and protect our constitutional right to privacy.

With over 100 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of businesses, our friends abroad and advocacy groups ranging from the ACLU to the NRA, I am confident that the USA FREEDOM Act is the most responsible approach to reform American surveillance.

This bill is largely about accountability and transparency. And in that spirit, I’m gathering as much input as possible from my constituents.  Your questions, ideas and opinions will help me deliver reforms that work best for you and your neighbors in the Badger State.

Thanks to a new online tool named Madison, we can have an open and constructive debate on the USA FREEDOM Act. Click here to sign up for Madison. Together we can strengthen your privacy rights through this comprehensive bill. I look forward to working with you in this interactive forum.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), coauthors of the USA FREEDOM Act to end dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records, Thursday welcomed the support of a broad coalition of technology companies, trade associations and nonprofit organizations that advocate “privacy protections, oversight and accountability mechanisms that govern” surveillance authorities.

In a letter to Leahy and Sensenbrenner, the group of nearly 60 signees including Hewlett-Packard, Dropbox and Tumblr outline their priorities to address privacy and transparency concerns raised by revelations of sweeping surveillance use. They call for legislation to allow companies to disclose surveillance requests, to provide greater transparency on government use of surveillance authorities, to focus intelligence gathering on foreign powers, and to protect constitutional and human rights. A copy of the letter is below and available online.

The USA FREEDOM Act, which Leahy and Sensenbrenner introduced last month, would end the dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and ensure that other authorities cannot be used to justify similar dragnet collection. The bill also provides more safeguards for warrantless surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act.

The bill includes other significant privacy and oversight provisions, provides for the creation of a Special Advocate to focus on the protection of privacy rights and civil liberties before the FISA Court, and requires more detailed public reporting about the number and types of FISA orders that are issued.

The USA FREEDOM Act has over 115 cosponsors in the House and Senate and is supported by dozens of groups and businesses crossing the political spectrum. 

By Jim Sensenbrenner

Published on November 20, 2013


Technology companies revolutionized the global economy by creating an interconnected, high-speed international marketplace.

Internet and telecommunication companies empower businesses to conduct complex transactions and connect with customers, clients and governments across the globe, placing a premium on privacy, accountability and transparency.  These principles are the currency of their success, because as private citizens, we entrust these companies with very personal information.

The overreach by the National Security Agency (NSA) does more than infringe on American civil liberties. It poses a serious threat to our economic vitality. Reports from the business community are clear: indiscriminate collection of data by the NSA damages American companies' growth, credibility, competitive advantage and bottom line.

US companies seeking to expand to lucrative markets in Europe and Asia will find regulatory environments much less receptive to mergers and acquisitions because of NSA programs. German regulatory officials have made it clear, for instance, that AT&T, a massive American telecommunications company that provided customer telephone numbers to the NSA as ordered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (known as the Fisa court), would undergo intense scrutiny to ensure it complies with German privacy laws before it can acquire a German telecommunications company. This mandate would certainly impede efforts to expand its presence in the region.

Of course, US tech companies do not exist in a vacuum, free from competition. Companies like Google, which exhibit clear dominance in the United States, compete intensely with foreign competitors around the world. American businesses will lose considerable market share if foreign competitors and regulators paint them as pawns of the US intelligence community. Cisco Systems warned that its revenues could fall by as much as 10% because of the level of uncertainty or concerns engendered by NSA operations. Cisco saw its new orders fall by 12% in the developing world, 25% in Brazil and 30% in Russia. This is in contrast to the 8% growth Cisco saw in the previous quarter.

The cloud computing industry will also suffer. Since many industries rely heavily on this technology, any disruption would ripple across all segments of the national economy. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the US cloud computing industry could lose between $22 and $35bn (pdf) over the next three years because of the NSA's overreach. And smaller cloud service providers that partner with U.S. companies have already cancelled contracts.

After the revelations of abuse surfaced in June, I knew Congress must act to mitigate the negative effects on our civil liberties and economy. With these concerns in mind, I introduced the USA Freedom Act with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (Democrat from Vermont).

As part of its business provisions, the USA Freedom Act increases transparency by giving internet and telecom companies the ability to publicly disclose the number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) orders and national security letters they received, as well as how many orders they complied with. It will also allow companies to divulge how many users or accounts on whom information was demanded under the Fisa orders and national security letters.

In a joint letter, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, Google and LinkedIn wrote: "Transparency is a critical first step to an informed public debate, but it is clear that more needs to be done.  Our companies believe that government surveillance practices should also be reformed to include substantial enhancements for privacy protections and appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms for those programs."

Mozilla praised the Freedom Act as "an important step toward rebuilding user trust by adding limitations on government collection of data in the name of national security. The idea is simple. The NSA should not have a blank check to access user data from technology companies."

The Software Alliance understood the international implications of the legislation, explaining, "It is critical that we restore the public's trust by improving transparency and showing the world that the United States is striking the right balance between national security needs and individual privacy."

These endorsements send a clear message: transparency and privacy are paramount for internet and telecommunication companies. It is the bedrock of their credibility and stability as corporate entities.

Unfortunately, on 31 October, the Senate Intelligence Committee – created to conduct oversight on these programs – abdicated leadership and responsibility by voting for the first time in our country's history to allow unrestrained spying on innocent Americans.

But with over 100 cosponsors covering the political spectrum, my colleagues and I will continue to work pragmatically towards the balanced approach supported by the American people, businesses and our friends abroad.

Genuine reform is a Constitutional and economic necessity. If the USA Freedom Act is brought to the floors of Congress for an up or down vote, I am confident it will pass with strong bipartisan support.

View online: theguardian
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, presented the keynote address on surveillance and foreign intelligence gathering in the United States at the Georgetown University Law Center. His prepared remarks can be viewed here
 
Congressman Sensenbrenner and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced H.R. 3361/S. 1599, the USA FREEDOM Act, which seeks to restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities.  

The comprehensive USA FREEDOM Act has over 100 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and Senate and has been endorsed by groups ranging from the NRA to the ACLU. It also has garnered the support of technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Mozilla.
 
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy today following her November 14th testimony before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The subject of the hearing was “Strengthening Transparency and Accountability within the Environmental Protection Agency.” Congressman Sensenbrenner questioned Administrator McCarthy on E15.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “There have been several tests highlighting E15’s harmful effects on engines, but they have all been dismissed by the EPA. However, I am encouraged that Administrator McCarthy feels “additional research that’s done credibly and transparent is always welcome,” because my bill requires just that. Americans using gas-powered machinery should not be put in danger due to faulty fuel that has not been adequately vetted. I expect a timely response from Administrator McCarthy and encourage her to endorse H.R. 875.”

Congressman Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 875, which would repeal the EPA’s waiver decision approving the use of E15 and the authority of the agency to grant further decisions until the EPA seeks an independent scientific analysis.