December 15, 2017

Ahead of FISA Section 702 Expiration, Harris, Lee, Senate Colleagues, Call for Open and Transparent Debate

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mike Lee (R-UT), led a bipartisan letter with eight of their Senate colleagues urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act through regular order ahead of its December 31st expiration. Recent reports have indicated the reauthorization of 702 may be included in the year-end spending bill, rather than debated as a stand-alone piece of legislation.

In addition to Senator Harris and Senator Lee, the letter was signed by Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Cory Gardner (R-CO). 

“Transparency is critical to maintaining the trust of the American people in our foreign intelligence authorities, especially those that involve sensitive privacy and civil liberties concerns for Americans,” wrote the Senators. “The regular legislative process is an essential component of that transparency, demonstrating to the American people that Congress has made a reasoned judgment about the propriety and effectiveness of the federal government’s intelligence capabilities.”

The senators continued, “Legislation that reauthorizes Section 702 deserves the full and open deliberative process of this body. All Senators, regardless of committee assignment, should have the ability to offer amendments and debate. There are clear differences of opinion on the scope of the Section 702 authority and possible reform measures. Those differences are a healthy reflection of the Senate at work, and the American people deserve to hear them fully articulated and considered.”

The full text of the letter is here and below:

 

December 15, 2017

 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader

U.S. Senate

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Majority Leader McConnell:

We, the undersigned Senators, write regarding legislation reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act. According to recent press reports, the reauthorization of Section 702 may be included in a package with other legislative priorities—without an open amendment process or floor debate—shortly before Section 702 expires on December 31. We strongly urge you to follow a different course, and to take up Section 702 reauthorization through regular order. If doing so before the expiration date is not feasible, we ask that reauthorization be limited to a matter of months to allow time for proper debate on the issue in the early part of 2018.

Transparency is critical to maintaining the trust of the American people in our foreign intelligence authorities, especially those that involve sensitive privacy and civil liberties concerns for Americans. The regular legislative process is an essential component of that transparency, demonstrating to the American people that Congress has made a reasoned judgment about the propriety and effectiveness of the federal government’s intelligence capabilities.

Legislation that reauthorizes Section 702 deserves the full and open deliberative process of this body. All Senators, regardless of committee assignment, should have the ability to offer amendments and debate. There are clear differences of opinion on the scope of the Section 702 authority and possible reform measures. Those differences are a healthy reflection of the Senate at work, and the American people deserve to hear them fully articulated and considered. 

Section 702 is an important national security tool, and, with appropriate protections for privacy and civil liberties, Congress should reauthorize it. However, reauthorization of Section 702 must be done the right way, and time is running out. We urge you to bring reauthorization legislation to the Senate floor as soon as possible, and to grant sufficient time for full and open debate and amendment.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Sincerely, 

 

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