ACLU Applauds Introduction of Bipartisan Government Surveillance Reform Act to Rein in Warrantless Government Surveillance

Sens. Wyden and Lee’s Bill Would Protect Americans Against Several Types of Warrantless U.S. Government Surveillance

November 7, 2023 10:00 am

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WASHINGTON — A bipartisan, bicameral bill introduced today by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) would rein in the U.S. surveillance state and significantly reform the laws the government uses to warrantlessly spy on Americans — including Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Section 702 allows the government to engage in the mass warrantless surveillance and collection of Americans’ international phone calls, text messages, emails, and other communications with little transparency, oversight, or accountability. This law is set to expire at the end of this year, and the American Civil Liberties Union and its partners have advocated for Congress to either pass fundamental reforms to the spy program or let it expire.

Documents released by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) earlier this year revealed numerous recent violations of legal requirements and court-ordered rules intended to protect Americans’ privacy — including the use of Section 702 to surveil a sitting state court judge who “had complained to [the] FBI about alleged civil rights violations perpetrated by a municipal chief of police,” as well as Black Lives Matter protesters.

The Government Surveillance Reform Act would also:

  • Ban warrantless queries of Section 702 and Executive Order 12333 databases for Americans’ communications;
  • Prohibit law enforcement from purchasing Americans’ sensitive data from data brokers; and
  • Improve judicial oversight, including by enacting important reforms to the FISA court process.

“We have said again and again that Section 702 should not be reauthorized absent fundamental reforms. The Government Surveillance Reform Act meets this high standard. This legislation would address the countless abuses of Section 702 we have seen from the government, and it would ensure the protection of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. Congress should not vote to reauthorize Section 702 without the critical reforms contained in this bill,” said Kia Hamadanchy, senior policy counsel at ACLU.

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