Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), introduced the Government Surveillance Reform Act (GSRA), a sweeping package of legislation that would enact comprehensive privacy protections for people in the United States while creating a path forward for reauthorization of the controversial warrantless surveillance authority known as “Section 702.” This authority is set to expire on December 31, 2023, unless Congress takes action to reauthorize it.
A uniquely broad and bipartisan coalition of members of Congress and organizations have made clear throughout this year that Section 702 must not be reauthorized without the critical reforms in this bill. The GSRA, which is both the only path toward reauthorization and the only legislation that would restore Americans’ privacy, was announced this morning with original cosponsors Sen. Wyden, Sen. Lee, Rep. Davidson, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Sen. Baldwin, Sen. Daines, Sen. Hirono, Sen. Lummis, Sen. Tester, Sen. Warren, Sen. Markey, Rep. Biggs, Rep. Jacobs, Rep. Massie, Rep. Jayapal, Rep. Mace, Rep. Chu, Rep. Lee, Rep. Correa, Rep. Doggett, and Rep. Lieu.
The GSRA’s critical privacy protections include:
- Requiring a warrant for searches of Americans’ communications collected without a warrant;
- Bolstering the FISA Court safeguards and accountability measures for misuse of surveillance authorities; and
- Prohibiting intelligence and law enforcement agencies from exploiting the Data Broker Loophole to warrantlessly buy Fourth Amendment-protected information about people in the United States en masse, including our location and internet records.
For more information on the GSRA and the ongoing efforts to rein in warrantless government surveillance and restore Americans’ privacy, see the FISA reform resource hub.
Here’s how civil society organizations are responding to the news of this historic Act:
Alex Marthews, Restore The Fourth: “If you think that Section 702 should not be renewed without meaningful reforms to government surveillance powers, then this is the bill. We were founded by ordinary people concerned about government surveillance, and we urge you not to miss this opportunity.”
Sean Vitka, Policy Director, Demand Progress: “This is the most significant opportunity for protecting Americans from warrantless government surveillance in generations, and the GSRA rises to the challenge. Section 702 must not be reauthorized without the critical, comprehensive privacy protections in this bill.”
John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC: “Asian Americans are disproportionately scrutinized as compared to other Americans in the name of ‘national security.’ When it comes to the federal government’s surveillance—whether pursuant to Section 702 of FISA or other surveillance authorities—Asian Americans are likely to be ‘incidentally’ spied on at a higher rate, simply because we have family, friends, and business associates who live abroad. This is highly concerning, given how the federal government is able to run backdoor searches through this data without a warrant. This critical bill would put in place protections and transparency mechanisms that help to regulate the collection of Americans’ sensitive communications, and rein in the likely greater impact that such existing authorities have on communities of color.”
Bob Goodlatte, former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Senior Policy Advisor of the Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability (PPSA): “For far too long, the government has abused Section 702. This statute, enacted by Congress to surveil foreign threats in foreign lands, has become a tool to subject countless Americans to warrantless surveillance. The reforms in this bill ensure that our Constitutional rights will once again be respected, just as the Founders intended. PPSA appreciates this well-crafted bill – especially its tough accountability provisions. Rogue agents in the intelligence community and FBI who intentionally violate the law to spy on Americans must be held responsible.”
Jeramie Scott, Senior Counsel and Director of EPIC’s Project on Surveillance Oversight, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC): “EPIC applauds Senators Wyden and Lee, as well as Representatives Davidson and Lofgren, for their work on the Government Surveillance Reform Act (GSRA). Over the past several years, report after report has underscored the extent to which intelligence and law enforcement agencies have run roughshod over Americans’ privacy and civil liberties by hoovering up—without a warrant—massive amounts of sensitive information. Now, Congress has a chance to rein in this ecosystem of warrantless government surveillance by passing the GSRA. FISA Section 702 should not be reauthorized absent these critical protections.”
Jake Laperruque, Deputy-Director of the Security and Surveillance Project, Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT): “We are proud to endorse the Government Surveillance Reform Act. The bill that provides the smart, comprehensive safeguards we need to protect Americans’ civil rights and civil liberties from warrantless surveillance. It will end the litany of abuse of FISA 702 we’ve seen year after year and close serious loopholes, all while preserving the operational value needed for national security. The only path forward for FISA 702 is with significant reforms, and the GSRA accomplishes this critical goal.”
Manjusha Kulkarni, Co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate and Executive Director of AAPI Equity Alliance: “Asian Americans understand the perils of unchecked national security policy because we have experienced it in real time. For the Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II, the Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Americans who were racially profiled after 9/11, and the Chinese Americans who were investigated without cause, the Government Surveillance Reform Act marks a significant and long-overdue step to safeguard the privacy rights of our communities and all communities that have been subjected to unjust surveillance. By mandating warrants for the surveillance of U.S. citizens and closing the loophole that allows the government to purchase our data from data brokers, it serves as an important defense against government intrusion. Now more than ever, this legislation offers much-needed reassurance to Asian Americans who continue to suffer from the consequences of warrantless surveillance — and we wholeheartedly support it.”
Kia Hamadanchy, Senior Policy Counsel of American Civil Liberties Union: “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.”
Don Bell, Policy Counsel, Project On Government Oversight: “It is imperative that Congress enact this sensible set of reforms that curtail the practice of unaccountable and warrantless surveillance of Americans. This legislation will also finally prohibit law enforcement from circumventing the Fourth Amendment by buying our most personal data, rather than getting a warrant for it. The Project On Government Oversight supports the GSRA, which stands as a meaningful and long overdue effort at bringing true oversight and reform to government surveillance practices.”
Sue Udry, Executive Director, Defending Rights & Dissent: “Congress has an opportunity to stand up for the Fourth Amendment and take an important step toward protecting our privacy from warrantless government spying. We heartily endorse the GSRA which will slam shut two dangerous backdoors our government has been using to spy on us without a warrant: the FBI’s 702 backdoor search, and the data broker loophole.”
James Czerniawski, Senior Policy Analyst, Americans for Prosperity: “The U.S. intelligence community has frequently misused its authorities under FISA, including Section 702, as well as other surveillance powers, eroding trust in institutions responsible for Americans’ safety. Protecting our constitutional rights and national security are not mutually exclusive goals. The Government Surveillance Reform Act is a critical step toward restoring trust, protecting constitutional rights, and maintaining public safety. We commend Senators Wyden and Lee, along with Representatives Davidson and Lofgren for their leadership in advancing this important legislation.”
Matt Wood, Vice President of Policy, Free Press Action: “The Government Surveillance Reform Act is a true milestone in the effort to rein in abuse of foreign intelligence gathering tools. Agencies often misuse these tools to target people in the United States. And when they do, they disproportionately target people of color, recent immigrants, members of religious groups, and dissidents. Free Press Action hails this landmark legislation’s common-sense fixes for the loopholes that intelligence agencies exploit to search through and even buy information without a warrant.”
Prem Trivedi, Policy Director, New America’s Open Technology Institute: “The Open Technology Institute endorses the Government Surveillance Reform Act, a bill that demonstrates we can protect both constitutional rights and national security. Inadequate limits on government surveillance disproportionately harm people of color, immigrants, and other vulnerable groups. This legislation would ensure that Section 702 of FISA is reauthorized with a critical democratic reform — a warrant requirement for the FBI’s queries of Americans’ information. It also closes a loophole that lets law enforcement agencies buy personal information from data brokers without a warrant.”
Elizabeth Goitein, Senior Director, Liberty & National Security Program, Brennan Center for Justice: “The Government Surveillance Reform Act sets the standard by which any other proposals to reauthorize Section 702 must be measured. It would protect Americans’ civil liberties and end the countless abuses that have resulted from warrantless backdoor searches. At the same time, it would preserve the government’s ability to use Section 702 to combat foreign threats to our national security. And its comprehensive approach to surveillance reform ensures that warrantless surveillance of Americans cannot simply migrate to other authorities or fall through the legal cracks. If passed, this would be the most significant surveillance reform legislation since FISA itself.”
Michael Melendez, Executive Vice President, Libertas: “Warrantless surveillance of innocent Americans by the U.S. government has long been one of the greatest threats to our civil liberties. The Government Surveillance Reform Act brings forward protections that are long overdue for Americans and their data — something that couldn’t be more timely as we see states across the country enacting similar policies of their own to stop the warrantless surveillance by local law enforcement agencies and other state entities.”