House Committee to Study USA Freedom Act to End NSA Surveillance

By:  Warren Mass
House Committee to Study USA Freedom Act to End NSA Surveillance

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) announced May 5 that on May 7 the committee will mark up the USA Freedom Act (H.R. 3361).

The legislation was introduced last October 29 by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of Judiciary’s Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee, to reform the federal government’s intelligence-gathering programs — especially those conducted by the National Security Agency, or NSA — operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  

The process of marking up bills in House committees resembles that of amending bills on the House floor, with committee members offering their amendments to each section of the bill after it is read. The committee does not conclude a markup by voting on the bill as a whole, but by voting on a motion to order the bill reported to the House with whatever amendments the committee has approved.

At the markup, an amendment will be offered by Sensenbrenner on behalf of Goodlatte, Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Randy Forbes (R-Va.). An explanation on the Judiciary Committee website notes that these representatives issued the statement below:

As the Committee of primary jurisdiction, we have conducted robust oversight of the intelligence-gathering programs operated under FISA and have come to the conclusion that these programs are in need of reform to protect our privacy, including prohibiting bulk collection under Section 215. Over the past several months, we have worked together across party lines and with the Administration and have reached a bipartisan solution that includes real protections for Americans’ civil liberties, robust oversight, and additional transparency, while preserving our ability to protect America’s national security. We look forward to taking up this legislation on Wednesday and continuing to work with House leaders to reform these programs.

FISA, or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, prescribed procedures for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of “foreign intelligence information” between “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers,” which includes U.S. citizens and permanent residents suspected of espionage or terrorism. The act was amended in 2001 by the USA PATRIOT Act to include terrorism on behalf of groups that are not specifically backed by a foreign government. Public attention was focused on the act following publication by the New York Times on December 16, 2005, of an article that described a program of warrantless domestic wiretapping ordered by the Bush administration and carried out by the National Security Agency (NSA) since 2002. 

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Photo of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.): AP Images

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