Washington, DC (Jan. 11, 2018) – This morning, the House of Representatives passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, which will now head to the Senate for a vote. Section 702 surveillance was intended to target the communications of non-U.S. persons overseas, but often captures purely domestic communications. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is deeply disappointed by the passage of this bill in the House and urges the Senate to not pass it.
“Today marks another step in the government’s path toward the erosion of Fourth Amendment rights in the name of national security,” said NACDL President Rick Jones. “Rather than reforming the government’s worst excesses under the broad surveillance power of Section 702, the House voted to codify them into law. NACDL has long demanded significant change to the government’s reckless and warrantless surveillance of Americans, and the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 does not provide this. The Senate must not pass this bill.”
This legislation reauthorizes U.S. warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of FISA until 2024. It codifies the backdoor search loophole that allows the government to search the information collected under Section 702 for domestic investigations without meaningful limitation. The bill also allows for the practice referred to as “about” collection, whereby the government collects even purely domestic communications merely because they mention a target of Section 702 collection.
The proposed Amash-Lofgren amendment, sponsored by Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), was the source of major debate in the House. The Amash-Lofgren amendment would have replaced the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 with the USA RIGHTS Act, legislation which went a long way to bring Section 702 surveillance in line with constitutional protections and one which NACDL has previously supported. Today’s vote comes after a short-term reauthorization of Section 702 was passed on December 21. Section 702 was originally scheduled to sunset at the end of 2017.
The full text of the House bill is available here.