By Elizabeth Holland
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a markup of the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 3361), our favored legislative proposal to limit the NSA’s surveillance authority and end bulk collection of Americans’ phone and Internet records. The author of the USA FREEDOM Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), is expected to introduce a manager’s amendment at the markup that will make several key changes to the bill, including creating a clear bulk collection fix and requiring declassification of significant FISA Court opinions. AALL has strongly supported the USA FREEDOM Act since its introduction and believes that, even as amended, this bill is the best legislative reform to restore Americans’ privacy and rights under the Constitution.
Early last month, AALL joined a broad coalition of organizations on a letter to Congress and the President calling for an end to the bulk collection of data on individuals and urged swift markup and passage of the USA FREEDOM Act. The amended bill would address each of the reforms endorsed in our letter, as well as others, by aiming to prohibit bulk collection of all data under Section 215 and 214 and the National Security Letter (NSL) statutes while preserving the requirement of prior court approval. Unfortunately, the Sensenbrenner amendment would also weaken some of the bill’s transparency requirements. AALL will therefore continue to advocate to restore these provisions.
AALL believes the government has a responsibility to protect the privacy of library users and calls for effective oversight of those laws which expand surveillance on library users. We are pleased that the House Judiciary Committee is moving forward to address needed reforms to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.