Ending Dragnet Surveillance of Americans

November 1, 2013

Dear Friends,

As we continue to encounter near-daily revelations as to how the intelligence community has trampled on our personal privacy and civil liberties, I thought you'd want to know about some of my recent work.

I'm an original cosponsor of new legislation that would end the surveillance dragnet on Americans and comprehensively reform our national security laws. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring (USA FREEDOM) Act is a bipartisan bill that will ensure our protection from threats, increase transparency, and prevent abuses by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Leaked documents have revealed that the NSA regularly obtains the "metadata" telephone records (telephone numbers, time and duration) of all calls made within the U.S., even those between U.S. citizens. The NSA claims authority for this program in Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act of 2001, but it was never the intent of Congress to allow the NSA to capture the communications of all Americans. The USA FREEDOM Act would end this suspicionless surveillance program by only allowing the NSA to obtain the records of individuals who are suspected of terrorism or have been in direct contact with such a person.

The USA FREEDOM Act will also increase transparency at the secret court that reviews and approves the government's surveillance requests. Currently, only the government can present evidence to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), with no one arguing on behalf of privacy interests. This has resulted in the approval of 99.7 percent of the government's surveillance requests over the last three decades. The USA FREEDOM Act would create a Public Advocate to argue on behalf of the public interest before the FISC, and would require the court to publish declassified summaries of all of its major decisions and interpretations of the law.

The USA FREEDOM Act would make several other reforms to shine a light on our intelligence agencies, including allowing Internet companies to disclose estimates of the number of FISC orders they receive each year, and how many users are impacted. Leaked documents indicate that the NSA frequently obtains FISC orders to access the data of foreign users held by major Internet companies, but currently these companies are unable to publicly disclose anything about the nature or scope of these requests.

As a former member of the House Intelligence Committee, I know firsthand the importance of balancing our national security and protecting our civil liberties. I believe the USA FREEDOM Act will restore that balance and ensure the communications of innocent Americans are protected, without putting our safety at risk. Our national security can be carried out in an efficient, effective, and prudent manner which is not overly broad and invasive, and this bipartisan legislation is a big step in the right direction.

If you have any questions or comments, let me hear from you. I value what my constituents say to me, and I always need your thoughts and benefit from your ideas.


Anna G. Eshoo
Member of Congress