March 10, 2020

Wyden Statement on House FISA Extension Bill

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today released the following statement regarding the latest FISA extension bill under consideration in the U.S. House:

“The FISA bill posted by the House Rules Committee includes provisions sought by reformers, but falls far short of the meaningful protections for Americans’ rights that members from both parties have demanded. It codifies prohibitions on two collection activities that the government had already suspended: the massive and ineffective call detail record program and the unconstitutional warrantless collection of GPS and cell-site location information. Both of these prohibitions were included in the bipartisan, bicameral Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act. Unfortunately, the House bill does not fundamentally reform Section 215 of FISA, leaving, for example, the vague ‘relevance’ standard that has been abused in the past through secret interpretations. Nor does the bill prohibit the government from digitally tracking Americans through their web browsing and internet search history without a warrant. The bill’s limitations on indefinite retention of Americans’ records includes big loopholes, and the bill fails to ensure that the American public will ever know how much of their private records have been collected.

“Real reform of the FISA process in response to the problems identified by the Inspector General is dependent on a simple concept: independent oversight. There was bipartisan support to allow the independent amicus curiae of the FISA Court to have access to all FISA applications and orders and to have the opportunity to raise concerns with the Court. This reform was not included in the bill. Nor did the bill expand the mandate of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to include all surveillance that affects the privacy of Americans.

“Finally, the bill fails to clarify that the government cannot collect information like communications records and geo-location information outside the FISA process and beyond any judicial or congressional oversight. When Congress passes surveillance laws, the public has a right to know that the government does not consider them optional.”