"Thank you for contacting me about the USA PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act modified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow for the collection of metadata, but not the call content, of phone calls to assist in the investigation of potential threats against the United States. The Section 215 programs have been important tools for protecting our national security, and have been among the most heavily overseen programs of the U.S. government, with oversight by the Congress, judiciary, and inspectors-general within the executive branch to ensure that these programs have not been abused or misused. I strongly believe that there should not be a trade-off between our security and the freedoms and civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. As technology changes, our policies need to evolve. We can do a better job, and ensure that we have the right mix of security and civil liberties.
That is why I was pleased The USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 passed the Senate on June 3, by a vote of 67-32, and was signed by the President into law. Though there are certain aspects of the law I would have drafted differently, – particularly with regards to data retention by telecom companies – I supported the legislation because we cannot risk allowing these critical national security authorities to expire. Under the USA Freedom Act, the FISA authorities under Section 215 are extended until 2019, but with major changes that will both ensure that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to keep America safe, and important protections for the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. Some of the major provisions of this bill:
-the ban of "bulk collection" of American's telephone call records, by requiring the government to use a specific selection term to limit the scope of its collection to the greatest extent possible;
- keep the call records – not the content of calls – at the telephone companies, which already have this data as part of their regular business practices. The bill allows the government to obtain these call records only if the government demonstrates to the courts a reasonable suspicion the data is associated with a foreign terrorist network;
-provide more transparency about surveillance activities;
-require the FISA Court to appoint a panel of experts to serve as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to ensure that the FISA Court considers civil liberties implications in cases involving a novel or significant interpretation of law.
We live in a dangerous world of many threats to the United States, and we must remember that good intelligence is often our first line of defense against terrorist attacks. The USA FREEDOM Act does a good job of balancing the need to defend against such threats with the imperative to guarantee the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.
As a member of the Intelligence Committee, I will continue to ask the tough questions of analysts to ensure that these programs operate properly, and within the parameters laid out by Congress, to protect Americans' security, constitutional rights, and privacy.
Again, thank you for contacting me. For further information or to sign up for my newsletter please visit my website at http://www.warner.senate.gov .Sincerely,
MARK R. WARNER
United States Senator "