Monday, January 25th, 2021

Reps. Gabbard, Massie sponsor bill to repeal Patriot Act, FISA amendments

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U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced a bill that would repeal the USA Patriot Act and amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to remove provisions that they say undermine civil liberties.

The bill, the Protect Our Civil Liberties Act (H.R.8970), would, in addition to repealing the USA Patriot Act, which was approved after the 9/11 attacks, would repeal the FISA Amendments Act, which contains provisions allowing for mass email collection. The exceptions would be for provisions regarding FISA court reporting and WMD intelligence collection.

Further, it would make retaliation against federal national security whistleblowers illegal and provides for the termination of individuals who engage in such retaliation. It would also ensure that any FISA collection against a U.S. person can only occur with a valid warrant based on probable cause. This was the original FISA standard from 1978 to 2001.

The bill would also retain the ability for government surveillance capabilities to be targeted against a specific non-U.S. person, regardless of the type of communications method(s) or device(s) being used by the subject of the surveillance. It would also keep provisions dealing with the acquisition of intelligence information involving weapons of mass destruction from entities not composed primarily of U.S. persons.

Among other provisions, it would prohibit government-mandated “back doors” in electric devices or software that allow the government to bypass encryption or other privacy technology built into said hardware and/or software. Additionally, it would ban the use of Executive Order 12333 as a way of conducting surveillance on U.S. persons or mass collection of information. It would also increase the terms of judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) from seven to ten years and allow their reappointment.

“The Constitution of the United States guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms for every American — including the right to privacy and protection against illegal search and seizure without probable cause. Unfortunately, the so-called Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act allowed the intelligence community to conduct mass surveillance on Americans, collecting information about our phone calls and our emails,” Gabbard said. “Our legislation will repeal these laws and require Congress to strike the right balance between serving our national security interests and protecting our civil liberties and Fourth Amendment rights.”

Massie said the Patriot Act contains many provisions that violate the Fourth Amendment and have led to an expansion in domestic surveillance.

“Our Founding Fathers fought and died to stop the kind of warrantless spying and searches that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act authorize. It is long past time to repeal the Patriot Act and reassert the constitutional rights of all Americans,” Massie said.