Each day the United States is faced with a number of threats. For the most part we don’t know about them. That’s because the intelligence community is working behind the scenes to thwart terrorist threats against our country and keep our communities safe. At the same time, it is essential that the constitutional rights of Americans are not impeded in this process.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is commonly understood to be our nation’s most critical national security surveillance tool. It reportedly contributes to a quarter of all National Security Agency surveillance – offering insight into terrorists’ communications, providing valuable foreign intelligence to our policy makers, and giving an operational advantage to our men and women on the battlefield. This tool is set to expire at the end of the year, and while it must be reauthorized, it is also in need of real reforms. Congress must act on this issue, and that’s why I introduced the bipartisan USA Liberty Act along with several of my colleagues in the House of Representatives.
The American people expect that any surveillance measure be structured in a way that both protects them from international threats and ensures that the privacy of their communications is secured from unfounded government intrusion. I agree, and the USA Liberty Act is a carefully drafted bill that reauthorizes this national security tool that keeps Americans safe, but also reforms it to protect Americans’ constitutional rights. It contains more accountability, transparency, and oversight so that the American people have confidence that our cherished liberties continue to be protected as the intelligence community keeps us safe from foreign enemies wishing to harm our nation and citizens. The bill also contains a number of measures to further enhance national security so that our country remains free and safe. After much robust debate, the House Judiciary Committee approved the USA Liberty Act by a strong, bipartisan vote of 27 to 8.
Advancing national security and preserving civil liberties are not mutually exclusive. As FISA Section 702’s authority is set to expire at the end of the year the USA Liberty Act is the best legislative solution to preserve this important national security tool, while also providing for much-needed reforms to protect our valued civil liberties. I urge the House to vote on the USA Liberty Act soon so that the intelligence community is able to identify and thwart terrorist plots while Americans’ constitutional rights are better protected.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte