April 19, 2024

Wyden and Lummis Introduce Amendment to Roll Back Unprecedented Expansion of Warrantless FISA Surveillance

Bipartisan Amendment Strips Provision of House Bill that Requires Anyone who can Access a Server, Cable Box, Wifi Router, Phone or Laptop to Assist in Warrantless 702 Surveillance 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., today introduced an amendment to reverse a major expansion of warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that was included in the House-passed bill. 

The Wyden-Lummis amendment is cosponsored by Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawai’i, and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

The provision was added to the bill by House Intelligence Committee leaders with little discussion or debate last week. Supporters of the provision have said the reason for its inclusion is classified. But the amendment says, with only a few exceptions, anyone “who has access to equipment that is being or may be used to transmit or store wire or electronic communications,” will be forced to help the government conduct surveillance. 

“Thousands and thousands of Americans could be forced into spying for the government by this new bill and with no warrant or direct court oversight whatsoever,” said Wyden, the longest-serving member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Forcing ordinary Americans and small businesses to conduct secret, warrantless spying is what authoritarian countries do, not democracies. It would be a terrible dereliction of duty if the Senate meekly accepted the largest expansion of warrantless surveillance since the Patriot Act without so much as an up or down vote.”

“The 4th amendment is crystal clear— if the government wants to spy on the American people, it needs to get a warrant,” said Lummis. “Our freedoms and right to privacy play a major role in what distinguishes us from oppressive regimes like the Chinese Communist Party, yet sweeping authorities included in FISA allow the government to force companies to hand over Americans’ private data without a warrant, eroding our privacy. Americans shouldn’t have to worry about the government spying on them in their homes, workplaces or favorite business establishments, which is why Senator Wyden and I are working to close this dangerous loophole and preserve the freedoms afforded to us by the U.S. Constitution.”

The amendment text is available here.