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Government Surveillance

Intelligence Community Signals Support for USA FREEDOM Act

Today Senator Patrick Leahy released a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper expressing approval of Senator Leahy’s most recent version of the USA FREEDOM Act (S. 2685).

The letter states that the bill “bans bulk collection under a variety of authorities,” but “preserves essential Intelligence Community capabilities.” The letter also suggests that a new mandate that telecom companies retain their data would be unnecessary, stating that “based on communications providers’ existing practices” the bill would preserve “essential operational capabilities… while eliminating bulk collection.”

“This support from our leaders on national security strongly confirms that we can advance privacy protections without sacrificing our safety,” said CDT President and CEO Nuala O’Connor. “After a year of debate, the consensus is clear – bulk collection is invasive and unnecessary, and its prohibition will not hamper essential intelligence needs. Now it’s time to move forward and pass Sen. Leahy’s USA FREEDOM Act.”

“With national security concerns addressed, the Senate should bring the bill to a vote this month, without weakening it. Director Clapper and Attorney General Holder are clear in saying that a data retention mandate is unnecessary, so none should be added to the USA FREEDOM Act,” said CDT Senior Counsel Harley Geiger. “If Congress fails to address this critical surveillance reform now, it will further weaken Americans’ trust in government and the tech industry, send a negative message internationally, and risk the expiration of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act next year.”