FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 12, 2018
 Contact: Press@paul.senate.gov, 202-224-4343


 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) circulated a letter urging their fellow senators to oppose the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, citing the legislation’s “serious problems” and calling it “a significant step backward” that “does nothing substantive to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of innocent Americans.” 

“To be clear, FISA’s purpose is to collect foreign intelligence, but without additional meaningful constraints, Congress is allowing the government to use information collected without a warrant against Americans in domestic court proceedings. We have introduced two separate bills which preserve the government’s ability to pursue terrorists abroad and protect the country from foreign threats while also making the necessary reforms to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans here at home,” the senators write.

You can find the entire letter HERE or below:

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Dear Colleague:

We want to draw your attention to serious problems with the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, which the Senate will be debating next week. This legislation is a significant step backward and does nothing substantive to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of innocent Americans. 

This bill allows an end-run on the Constitution by permitting information collected without a warrant to be used against Americans in domestic criminal investigations. It endorses the possibility that the government will resume “about” collections on Americans, a practice that the government was actually forced to abandon last year due to significant non-compliance with privacy protections ordered by the FISA Court. And it does nothing to protect innocent Americans from expanding warrantless surveillance.
 
•    Continuing the “backdoor” loophole: The bill does nothing for the thousands of Americans whose private communications are searched without a warrant every year, including those who are not even the subject of an investigation. Nor would it prevent unlimited searches for Americans’ information, even for non-national security purposes. The so-called “warrant requirement” reform in the bill applies only to criminal suspects, and then only to the government’s access to their information at the final stage of an investigation, a situation that, according to the most recent annual data from the Director of National Intelligence, has occurred once. This means that the bill actually treats those suspected of a crime better than innocent Americans.
 
•    Restarting “About” collection: The bill, for the first time, would statutorily recognize the possibility of the government restarting “about” collection, essentially by default, which would necessarily include warrantless collection of communications to and from Americans for whom there is no suspicion at all. The government was forced to abandon this problematic form of collection last year due to extensive compliance problems, and should not be allowed to resume it without specific Congressional approval.
 
•    Unreviewable end use: The bill grants new, unchecked powers to the Attorney General to allow data collected without a warrant to be used in domestic criminal prosecutions of Americans. The Attorney General merely has to determine that a criminal proceeding “affects, involves, or is related to the national security of the United States” or involves a “transnational crime.” Alarmingly, the bill explicitly prohibits any challenge to the Attorney General’s decision.
 
To be clear, FISA’s purpose is to collect foreign intelligence, but without additional meaningful constraints, Congress is allowing the government to use information collected without a warrant against Americans in domestic court proceedings. We have introduced two separate bills which preserve the government’s ability to pursue terrorists abroad and protect the country from foreign threats while also making the necessary reforms to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans here at home. 
 
The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, however, further expands the risks of unconstitutional spying on innocent Americans, and we encourage you to join us in opposition to this bill. We believe that a clean, short-term extension would be markedly preferable to this legislation. Section 702 was last extended for the length of the Continuing Resolution; if Leadership does not allow any amendments to the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act and it does not pass this coming week, then Section 702 authorities can be extended again on the next Continuing Resolution to allow the Senate to fully debate how to appropriately reform this powerful surveillance tool. 

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