Lee Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Secure Privacy Protections for Americans

November 7, 2023

U.S. Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., today introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Government Surveillance Reform Act, to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with important new protections for Americans’ constitutional rights. 


The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wy., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Edward Markey, D-Mass.


In the House, the bill is cosponsored by Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., and Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif. 


“Americans know that it is possible to confront our country’s adversaries ferociously without throwing our constitutional rights in the trash can.  But for too long surveillance laws have not kept up with changing times.” Wyden said. “Our bill continues to give government agencies broad authority to collect information on threats at home and abroad, including the ability to act quickly in emergencies and settle up with the court later.  But it creates much stronger protections for the privacy of law-abiding Americans, and restores the warrant protections that are at the heart of the Fourth Amendment.”


“The FISA Court and the Director of National Intelligence have confirmed that our government conducted warrantless surveillance of millions of Americans’ private communications,” Senator Lee said. “It is imperative that Congress enact real reforms to protect our civil liberties, including warrant requirements and statutory penalties for privacy violations, in exchange for reauthorizing Section 702. Our bipartisan Government Surveillance Reform Act stops illegal government spying and restores the Constitutional rights of all Americans.”  


“For decades, U.S. Intelligence agencies have been circumventing our 4th Amendment right to privacy by spying on Americans without a warrant. The government Surveillance Accountability Act would end abuses under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and end unauthorized surveillance programs,” said Rep. Warren Davidson. 


“It would be unwise for Members of Congress to greenlight another major surveillance reauthorization without carefully considering and enacting surveillance reform measures. For too long, federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies have had nearly unchecked access to Americans’ personal data,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren. “Our bipartisan, bicameral comprehensive and calibrated legislation provides reform solutions sought for decades. With widespread support from across the political spectrum the Government Surveillance Reform Act would dramatically curb surveillance abuse and protect Americans' civil liberties, while preserving national security.”


The bill reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for 4 years, allowing intelligence agencies to continue to use the authorities granted by that law, but with key new protections against documented abuses and new accountability measures when abuses occur. It also includes a host of reforms to government surveillance authorities beyond Section 702, including requiring warrants for government purchases of private data from data brokers.


Although surveillance proponents claimed that the previous 702 reauthorization included sufficient safeguards to prevent abuse, intelligence agencies have documented extensive new violations in recent years. Abuses include warrantless searches for a U.S. Senator, a member of Congress, and a state court judge, among others. 


The bill’s reforms include: 

  • Protecting Americans from warrantless backdoor searches, ensuring that foreigners aren’t targeted as a pretext for spying on the Americans with whom they are communicating, and prohibiting the collection of domestic communications.
  • Extending similar reforms to surveillance activities under Executive Order 12333, including by limiting warrantless searches of Americans’ communications and prohibiting the targeting of foreigners as a pretext for surveilling Americans. It also limits the acquisition of Americans’ information as part of large datasets.
  • Requiring warrants for surveillance of Americans’ location data, web browsing and search records, including AI assistants like Alexa and Siri, vehicle data and by prohibiting the government from purchasing Americans’ data from data brokers.
  • Exceptions to ensure the government can continue to use Section 702 for defensive cybersecurity purposes, to assist in locating and rescuing hostages overseas and emergency provisions in cases where there isn’t sufficient time to get a warrant in advance. 


The bill has been endorsed by dozens of civil society organizations:


Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), AAPI Equity Alliance, AAPI Victory Alliance, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Prosperity, API Equality-LA, Asian American Federal Employees for Nondiscrimination (AAFEN), Asian Texans for Justice, Aurora Commons LLC, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Center for Democracy & Technology, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Demand Progress, Due Process Institute, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Empowering Marginalized Asian Communities, Fight for the Future, FreedomWorks, Free Press Action, Libertas Institute, Media Alliance, Muslim Advocates, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), Oakland Privacy, OCA, OCA Greater Cleveland - Asian Pacific American Advocates, OCA Silicon Valley, Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability (PPSA), Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Restore the Fourth, Secure Justice, Stop AAPI Hate, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and X-Lab.


The bill was hailed as the most comprehensive and balanced government surveillance legislation in years, by groups across the political spectrum: 


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.”


Sean Vitka, Policy Director, Demand Progress: “This year represents 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.”


Jason Pye, Director of Rule of Law Initiatives, Due Process Institute: “Due Process Institute strongly supports the bipartisan and bicameral Government Surveillance Reform Act. For too long, arrogance prevented the intelligence apparatus and its allies in Congress from coming to the table to negotiate reforms. Now that reauthorization of Section 702 has been made difficult by the politically diverse community of advocates and lawmakers demanding commonsense to protect Americans from warrantless surveillance, the intelligence community has become more willing to listen. Unfortunately, however, they have only put forward unacceptable half measures. The Government Surveillance Reform Act is the only path forward to protect Americans from warrantless surveillance.” 


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 reign in the likely greater impact that such existing authorities have on communities of color."


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.”


A one-page summary of the bill is here


A section-by-section summary of the bill is here


Read the full bill here.


The bill’s bipartisan, bicameral co-sponsors praised the introduction:


“Freedom and privacy are bedrock Montana values, and no DC bureaucrat or government agency should be able to access Montanans’ personal information without a warrant,” said Sen. Jon Tester. “My bipartisan bill will slam shut dangerous loopholes to ensure that government can’t intrude on Montanans’ personal lives and help folks across the Treasure State rest easy knowing their Constitutional rights won’t be violated.” 


“Federal intelligence agencies have access to powerful surveillance tools that help protect our national security from foreign threats – but these tools too often violate Americans’ privacy rights,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “This bill will rein in these abuses and reform FISA’s Section 702 to protect Americans from mass, warrantless surveillance.” 


“Americans have a constitutional right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures that is nonnegotiable,” said Sen. Steve Daines. “As the federal government is increasingly sticking it’s nose into Americans’ private conversations and records, we must put an end to illegitimate searches and protect this fundamental right.”


 “Americans have a constitutional right to privacy, but Section 702 has been used to violate that right hundreds of thousands of times. That is why we cannot reauthorize FISA without a major overhaul,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal. “I’m proud to join Senator Wyden and Representatives Davidson and Lofgren in leading this legislation to ensure that the right to privacy is protected for all people.”


“For decades, our intelligence agencies have offered us a false choice: either keep our country safe or protect Americans’ constitutional right to privacy. But we can and must do both,” said Rep. Sara Jacobs. “Yet, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has enabled the warrantless collection of Americans’ activities – from phone calls and website searches to emails and location data – with too little oversight and accountability. That’s why I’m so proud to co-lead the bipartisan and bicameral Government Surveillance Reform Act, which gives our intelligence agencies the necessary tools to combat terrorism, safeguards Americans’ rights, and ensures robust oversight. This is the framework we need to protect our country and uphold our values.”


“Adding these privacy safeguards to FISA will ensure our civil liberties are protected without sacrificing national security. We have learned the hard way that unchecked surveillance is a violation of our right to privacy. I strongly support comprehensive overhaul of FISA with the Government Surveillance Reform Act, and urge my colleagues to put their constituents first and do the same,” said Rep. Barbara Lee.


“Unwarranted and unchecked surveillance violates our constitutional rights,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett. “By providing essential reforms to encompass new technological developments in an ever-changing landscape, this legislation recognizes that ensuring our national security need not require trampling individual liberties.”


“As new technologies emerge, we must ensure Americans’ data privacy is protected,” said Rep. Ted Lieu. “I’m pleased to co-author the bipartisan and bicameral Government Surveillance Reform Act, a comprehensive package of key reforms that strike an important balance between defending Americans’ civil liberties while protecting our national security. I’m also glad to see our Cell-Site Simulator Warrant Act and key provisions from our Government Surveillance Transparency Act included in the legislation.”


"Since its passage in 2008, FISA's Section 702 has been used by federal law enforcement to access sensitive information about people in the United States without a warrant, including their communications and location information, that is otherwise protected by the Fourth Amendment,” said Rep. Judy Chu. “As Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I am particularly concerned about the disproportionate impact Section 702 of FISA has on Asian Americans and members of the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian, or AMEMSA, communities, who have been subject to Section 702 ‘backdoor searches’ simply because we have family, friends, and business associates in foreign countries. Racial profiling in the name of ‘national security’ has historically upended countless innocent lives, and that is why I joined as an original cosponsor of the Government Surveillance Reform Act, which would put in place much-needed, commonsense reforms to Section 702 that would protect the rights of Americans while preserving national security.”