U.S. Congressional briefing

Access Now looks forward to working with U.S. House Judiciary Committee to reform warrantless surveillance

Washington D.C. (February 1, 2017)  — The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), today announced the committee’s agenda for the 115th Congress. Access Now was pleased to hear Chairman Goodlatte identify surveillance reform as a priority, and we look forward to working with the chairman to ensure the human rights of all people are considered.

Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act is used to authorize warrantless surveillance around the world. However, this statute will expire at the end of 2017, absent Congressional action. During previous “sunset” periods, Congress has waited until the last minute to push through reauthorization with little debate.

The following is attributable to Nathan White, Senior Legislative Manager at Access Now:

“We are glad to learn that Chairman Goodlatte has identified reforming Section 702 as a priority for the committee. We agree that this is an important issue that must be carefully considered in a thoughtful, bipartisan manner. We look forward to working with the chairman and committee staff on this process.

“The commitment to ‘reform’ Section 702 is laudable. However, Chairman Goodlatte said he would work to ensure that ‘American’s privacy is protected.’ We encourage the chairman to recognize that programs operated pursuant to Section 702 — such as Prism and Upstream — implicate the human rights of people around the world. It’s possible to be safe and to also  respect human rights. In fact, broad surveillance of innocent people outside the U.S. may undermine national security interests. We hope the chairman will consider global human rights — and the implications for the U.S.-E.U. Privacy Shield agreement —  in these discussions.”

Earlier this year, Access Now wrote to all members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees recommending specific ways in which Section 702 needs to be reformed to respect of the human rights of all people. These suggestions include:

  • Codifying and expanding Presidential Policy Directive 28
  • Limiting surveillance targets to foreign powers or agents of foreign powers
  • Striking the encryption exception for data retention; and
  • Prohibiting acquisition of communications from non-targets.