WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Hirono today voted against S. 139, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Reauthorization. The bill passed the Senate on a 65-34 vote, sending the legislation to the President.
“Congress authorizes covert intelligence programs under FISA for a limited duration so that these programs can be reviewed, debated, and reformed to balance our national security needs with the constitutional rights of the American people,” Senator Hirono said. “The bill we voted on today failed to meet this basic standard. This legislation needed more open debate and a process where we could have offered amendments. The fact that it will likely not be revisited by Congress for six years goes against our country’s core principles.”
Section 702 of FISA establishes the procedures that allow the U.S. government to conduct surveillance on non-U.S. persons who are in foreign countries. The provision also gives the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence the authority to jointly authorize the targeting of non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. for up to one year at a time without a formal court warrant. However, under these authorities the government collects massive amounts of data that has included communications of Americans in the U.S.
Despite calls for reform of these data collection procedures by civil liberties advocates, S. 139 renews 702 authorities for six years and fails to prevent controversial information gathering that sweeps up Americans’ information or provide stronger safeguards for Americans if their information is collected.
Senator Hirono is a cosponsor of S. 1997, the bipartisan USA RIGHTS Act. This bill would reform FISA 702 programs by preventing controversial information collection practices, requiring explicit warrants in instances where communications by Americans are necessary to collect foreign intelligence, prohibiting the use of information collected under 702 from being used against Americans unless they are implicated in crimes related to national security such as terrorism, strengthening oversight of the 702 program, among other provisions. This legislation has been endorsed by civil liberties advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union.