- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on the JudiciaryCrime, Terrorism and Homeland SecurityIntroducedMarch 28th, 2019
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 1942?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 1942
In-Depth: Rep. 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.
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 Note: Bill 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.
- Sponsoring Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) Press Release
- Free Press Action Press Release (In Favor)
- ACLU Tweet (In Favor)
- Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) Blog (In Favor)
- The Daily Beast
- The Hill
- Privacy News Online
- Lawfare Podcast (Context)
- Countable - USA Freedom Act
- Countable - PATRIOT Act
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / gorodenkoff)