Access Cautiously Welcomes Introduction of USA FREEDOM Act of 2015

Washington D.C. (April 28, 2015) – Access today welcomed the reintroduction of a bipartisan reform bill meant to rein in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata. The USA FREEDOM Act of 2015, was introduced by Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), John Conyers, Jr., (D-MI), James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

Access also strongly opposes S. 1035, a bill introduced in the Senate by Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that would reauthorize expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act through 2020. Access is working with a broad coalition to oppose this legislation.

“Two years ago, people learned that intelligence agencies have been indiscriminately collecting the private records of innocent people around the world. This is a violation of basic human rights and it must end,” said Amie Stepanovich, U.S. Policy Manager at Access. “The introduction of the USA FREEDOM Act is a positive step toward reform. We look forward to reviewing the legislation to determine its impact on the status quo.”

“Snowden saw something. Millions of people around the world said something. Now it’s time for Congress to do something. There are 33 days until sections of the USA PATRIOT Act expire. Unless Congress reins in these programs to respect our human right to privacy, these authorities must end,” said Nathan White, Senior Legislative Manager at Access.

According to press reports, The USA FREEDOM Act would end bulk collection of Americans’ telephone metadata. Instead, the NSA would have to regularly request specific – albeit potentially voluminous – records. It is not yet clear if other reforms found in previous versions of the legislation remain intact and in what form.

“We are disappointed that this legislation apparently does nothing to protect the rights of 95% of the world’s people who do not in live in the United States. It is clear that any bill that primarily addresses domestic-facing programs will be limited,” added Stepanovich.

NSA reform efforts have stuttered in Congress. Access supported the original USA FREEDOM Act introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI) in October 2013, but pulled support after the bill was significantly watered down before passing out of the House of Representatives. Access continued to support Senator Leahy’s version of the bill in the Senate, which died in a failed cloture vote last October.

“The prohibition of bulk collection is a strong first step toward meaningful reform of U.S. foreign intelligence activities,” said Amie Stepanovich. “However, it is only a small, first step in a long journey. In determining whether to support this bill, Access will consider whether this legislation is an improvement over the status quo. No matter what, Access will continue to push for greater rights of all people to be free from suspicionless mass surveillance, both in the United States and around the world.”