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house Bill H.R. 1942

Should the NSA Stop Surveillance of Americans’ Phone Activity?

Argument in favor

The NSA’s phone surveillance programs are demonstrably unnecessary, as they haven’t stopped a single incidence of terrorism since their inception post-9/11. These programs intrude on citizens’ privacy and allow the government to collect vast amounts of information about people without their permission.

Argument opposed

There’s no need to debate this bill since the NSA has already stopped its phone surveillance program for the time being and the bill giving it authority for phone surveillance programs — the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 — is up for reauthorization this year. When that bill comes up for reauthorization, Congress will debate this issue and make a decision then.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
    IntroducedMarch 28th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 1942?

This bill — the Ending Mass Collections of Americans’ Phone Records Act — would formally end the National Security Agency’s (NSA) Call Detail Records Program by repealing the legal authority in the USA FREEDOM Act that allows the collection of communications records metadata for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations.

Impact

Phone users; the NSA; and the USA FREEDOM Act.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1942

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Justin Amash (R-MI) introduced this bill to permanently end the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program to surveil Americans’ phone records:

“After falsely insisting to Congress that this illegal surveillance program is carefully overseen and critical to national security, the government admitted last year that it had to delete years of records due to legal violations, and now it’s been reported that the program has actually been shuttered for six months. Getting rid of this program will vindicate Americans’ rights and begin the process of making the broader Patriot Act reforms that are going to be necessary to address the law’s serious constitutional flaws.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, the sponsor of this bill’s companion in the Senate, adds:

“The NSA’s sprawling phone records dragnet was born in secrecy, defended with lies and never stopped a single terrorist attack. Even after Congress acted in 2015, the program collected over half a billion phone records in a single year. It’s time, finally, to put a stake in the heart of this unnecessary government surveillance program and start to restore some of Americans’ liberties. This bill is just the opening bid in a much-needed, broad overhaul of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.”

Demand Progress supports this bill. Its Policy Counsel, Sean Vitka, says:

“The CDR Program was an ill-advised attempt to preserve the NSA's dubiously claimed authority to programmatically collect the records of people who have never been in contact with a person suspected of wrongdoing. These mass surveillance programs have never stopped a single terrorist attack, but they have consistently violated both the letter and spirit of the law, most recently resulting in the purge of hundreds of millions of wrongfully collected Call Detail Records. Mass surveillance under the PATRIOT Act has achieved only two things: rampant privacy violations of innocent people and immunity and compensation for the corporations that enable it. This bill is an important step toward reining in the mass surveillance of innocent people.”

Speaking as a guest on the Lawfare blog podcast on March 2, 2019, Luke Murray, National Security Advisor to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), said that the Trump administration had let the NSA’s phone surveillance program stagnate in recent months and was considering ending the program altogether.

NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone has equivocated on whether and how important the domestic phone records program is, telling the RSA Conference in San Francisco on March 6, 2019, that the NSA is “in a deliberative process right now” and planning to “work very, very closely with the administration and Congress.” When reached for comment by the Associated Press, the NSA declined to comment on this specific piece of legislation.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has expressed staunch support for NSA surveillance programs, calling FISA Section 702-enabled surveillance programs the “crown jewels” of the international intelligence community.

This bill has one cosponsor, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). A Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), also has one cosponsor, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Demand Progress, Free Press Action, Restore the Fourth, the ACLU, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Fight for the Future support this bill.


Of NoteBill sponsors Sens. Wyden and Paul and Reps. Amash and Lofgren have led bipartisan opposition to unconstitutional mass surveillance of Americans, repeatedly partnering on initiatives to defend Americans’ liberty from overreaching government interference. Sens. Wyden and Paul requested an inspector general investigation of the NSA phone records program after the agency revealed last year it had collected millions of unauthorized records.

Privacy News Online reports that the NSA’s mass collection of call and SMS records is only one of the mass surveillance programs Edward Snowden revealed in 2013. Since the PATRIOT Act’s passage, the NSA’s most significant mass surveillance programs have been kept under wraps thanks to national security letters and FISA. Last year, the Trump administration chose to continue Obama-era NSA upstream surveillance programs despite privacy concerns. At the time, an anonymous White House source said, “We support the clean reauthorization [of NSA surveillance programs PRISM and Upstream], and the administration believes it’s necessary to protect the security of the nation.”

After the USA FREEDOM Act’s passage, some civil libertarians warned that its privacy protections were inadequate. These warnings were prescient: last year, it was revealed that the NSA had improperly collected “hundreds of millions of phone records from Americans.” In response to this revelation, the NSA eventually decided to delete the entire FREEDOM Act trove, which consisted of around 685 million phone records.

In early 2019, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) revealed that the NSA had shuttered its call-detail records program, which gathered metadata on domestic text messages and phone calls, some time in mid to late 2018. The program was authorized by the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which authorized a pared-down version of the phone records program created by the PATRIOT Act after 9/11. It provides some safeguards against aspects of the program that were deemed “overly invasive,” but still allowed the NSA to continue collecting call and text records. A major congressional battle is expected over the reauthorization of the USA Freedom Act’s surveillance program legal authority, often referred to as Section 215, later this year when the bill comes up for renewal.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / gorodenkoff)

AKA

Ending Mass Collection of Americans' Phone Records Act

Official Title

To repeal the authority to access on an ongoing basis business records for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations, and for other purposes.

    Yes, it's a complete waste of resources and has proven ineffective and too costly. It's a breach of privacy and has the undertone of a police state, which we should never become. Provide the employees there a generous severance package and shut the NSA down.
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    It is too much effort for too little gain.
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    Our collection is used for very little reason, and can unfortunately diminish our principles of what the constitution was written for. Consider privacy over protection without bounds.
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    The NSA’s phone surveillance programs are demonstrably unnecessary, as they haven’t stopped a single incidence of terrorism since their inception post-9/11. These programs intrude on citizens’ privacy and allow the government to collect vast amounts of information about people without their permission.
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    The current administration should end the spying of text and phone calls and messages. People have a right to privacy! Unless, there is a true need for the surveillance of any terrorist group of faction, then and only then bring the program back online, but for now end the spying. I hope Congress puts bills together to end this issue.
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    Yes protect our privacy. Stop spying on us.
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    I vote yea because it seems that the program doesn't add much value anymore. It is suspected that the NSA hasn't used the data or the system since late 2018. It's costly and clearly too much for them to manage. They might as well end it and give citizens some sense of comfort. I'm sure they will continue to monitor, to some extent, for more threatening things such as terrorism.
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    Absolutely stop! It should never have
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    They should have never been able to do it in the first place so, yeah they should stop. But to think they will just because they issued a press release is naive.
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    Yes they should..but they won't. An "intelligence" agency giving up on something because it's too hard? Ridiculous. This is a con job.
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    Idepend
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    No. Not having this tool available to intelligence agencies was a contributing factor in Sept 11 attacks. It has helped uncover many crimes and prevented others including planning of terrorist attacks. Keep it in place.
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    Facebook and Google are now collecting all of our data. Freedom and privacy? What's that?!
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    Keep looking for terrorist
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    This bill (H.R. 1942) would protect our privacy from invasive government. Please vote for it.
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    s
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    SHOULD CONCENTRATE ON THE CORRUPTION IN THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION!
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    Really not sure you got a balance of a smaller government with the need for additional security really don’t know
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