Heinrich: Only Responsible Path Forward Is To Pass The USA Freedom Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is calling for the passage of the USA Freedom Act of 2015 to ensure the Intelligence Community has an updated legal framework to strengthen national security while also protecting the privacy rights of Americans. The legislation will end the National Security Agency's (NSA) bulk collection program that has allowed the government to collect billions of Americans' private records on a daily basis.

"The only responsible path forward is for the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act without delay. This bill is a bipartisan compromise that has already passed overwhelmingly in the Republican-led House of Representatives," said Sen. Heinrich. "Americans value their independence--I know this is especially true in New Mexico--and cherish their individual liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. It's reckless to ignore the broad, bipartisan support in Congress, and from the Intelligence Community, the technology industry, and the courts to end the bulk collection of hundreds of millions of Americans' private phone calls and to ensure the NSA has the tools it needs to focus more narrowly on the records of actual terrorists."

On May 13, 2015, an overwhelming majority of the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed the USA Freedom Act of 2015 by a vote of 338 to 88. The House-passed bill would end the government's reliance on bulk records collection and move to a system in which the government uses individualized court orders to request information on the numbers it suspects are linked to terrorists. NSA Director Michael S. Rogers said in a letter that the six-month transition period in the House bill is adequate, "We are aware of no technical or security reasons why this cannot be tested and brought on line within the 180-day period."

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously concluded on May 7, 2015 that the NSA's bulk collection program is illegal. Additionally, a federal judge in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia also ruled that the Section 215 bulk phone record collection program violates Americans' reasonable expectation of privacy and constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment. In his opinion, Judge Richard Leon also questions the efficacy of the program in protecting Americans, stating that "the Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA's bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time sensitive in nature."