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Hirono Introduces Amendments to FISA Reauthorization Bill to Protect Americans’ Civil Liberties

~ Hirono amendments would prevent expansion of surveillance authorities and govern use of FISA-derived information in criminal prosecutions ~

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, filed two amendments to the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act (RISAA) to protect the civil liberties of American citizens.

“While there are legitimate national security needs for the FISA 702 program, it’s critical those needs are balanced against the constitutional rights of the American people,” said Senator Hirono. “Both of my amendments would help strike that balance by strengthening protections for Americans’ civil liberties without interfering with the government’s ability to collect the information it needs to keep our country safe.”

Senator Hirono’s first amendment would prevent the expansion of surveillance authorities under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by removing from RISAA a provision that would encourage 702 searches on all non-citizens travelling to the United States and, by extension, lead to an increase in the amount of communication by U.S. citizens being reviewed without a warrant. This expansion is unnecessary in light of a robust existing vetting process authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

This amendment is cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The text of the amendment is available here.

Senator Hirono also filed an amendment governing the use of information gained from 702 queries in criminal prosecutions. Specifically, the amendment would ensure that if FISA-derived information leads to a criminal prosecution, disclosure is provided to the criminal defendant in the case. Disclosure is already required by FISA, but public reporting has revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) at one time used an interpretation of the words “derived from” that in practice meant it never made such disclosures, and recent review suggests it may have returned to a narrow definition.

The text of the amendment is available here.

Senator Hirono is a cosponsor of a number of other amendments that would improve RISAA. A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Hirono consistently has championed laws that protect American’s civil liberties. She is an original cosponsor of both S. 3234, the bipartisan Government Surveillance Reform Act, and S. 3961, the bipartisan SAFE Act. Both bills would reauthorize FISA 702 programs but with significant reforms to protect Americans’ civil liberties. Both bipartisan bills have been endorsed by civil liberties advocates such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Brennan Center for Justice.