[Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 77 (Tuesday, May 19, 2015)]
[Pages S3009-S3010]

                            USA FREEDOM ACT

  Mr. REID. Mr. President, 2 years ago the American people first became 
aware that the National Security Agency was collecting private 
information about their phone calls. This is called the Snowden 

[[Page S3010]]

  Under the banner of national security, the National Security Agency 
was mining information about home phone calls and how long they lasted. 
They found out whom they were calling--and not only that. They found 
out whom the call was between. They also determined how long that call 
  NSA essentially was conducting a dragnet, without first attempting to 
determine whether that information was relevant to a national security 
problem. NSA ran this program under the authorities granted to them by 
section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which expires on June 1 of this year. 
The American people were outraged by these revelations and Congress 
rightly acted.
  Last year, the House passed a bill by a vote of 303 to 121 to end the 
NSA's so-called bulk metadata collection program and reform and extend 
the authority for this program.
  I brought a similar bill to the floor authored by Senators Leahy and 
Lee. There was a bipartisan group of Senators who joined them to call 
for its passage. But sadly, the majority leader--at that time the 
minority leader--stood in the way of bipartisan reform. Instead of 
passing meaningful reform, he led a Republican filibuster of this bill. 
That was one of a couple hundred that was led by my friend.
  This year, Senators Leahy and Lee worked again with the Chairman and 
ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee on the USA FREEDOM Act, 
which ends the National Security Agency's bulk collection program and 
extends and reforms the authorities under section 215 of the PATRIOT 
  There have been bipartisan and bicameral calls for the Senate to take 
up that legislation. Yet again, instead of committing to bringing up 
this bipartisan bill, last month the senior Senator from Kentucky 
introduced a bill that would extend the authorities for the National 
Security Agency's bulk collection program for 5\1/2\ years. Then the 
Second Circuit, almost simultaneously--within 24 hours of that decision 
by the majority leader--found the bulk collection illegal.
  In reaction to the court's decision, the House last week passed the 
USA FREEDOM Act by a vote of 338 to 88. By a four-to-one margin, the 
House voted to end the National Security Agency's illegal bulk data 
collection program and reform its practices.
  But even in the face of that court's decision, the majority leader 
stood once again against bipartisan reform. Instead of heeding the 
Republican-controlled House's calls for reform, the majority leader 
introduced a bill that would extend the authorities for the National 
Security Agency's illegal program for 2 more months.
  Congressman Goodlatte, the chair of the Judiciary Committee in the 
House, said they will not accept a short-term extension of the bill. 
This morning, Leader McCarthy, the second ranking Republican in the 
House, said they will not accept any extension. That is exactly what 
the Speaker, Congressman Boehner, said.
  If we squander this opportunity to deliver sound reforms to this 
illegal program, we are handling our duties irresponsibly here in the 
  To stand in the way of reforming these practices is to ignore the 
voice of the American people. Just yesterday, a new poll commissioned 
by the American Civil Liberties Union showed that 82 percent of 
Americans are concerned that the Federal Government is collecting and 
storing the personal information of Americans, and they do not like it.
  If we are unable to reform these practices, we are ignoring the 
ruling of the Second Circuit, which rejected the National Security 
Agency's bulk collection program, and we are not allowing the American 
people's voice to be heard.
  I think, most importantly, if the senior Senator from Kentucky does 
not allow this commonsense reform simply with a vote on the Senate 
floor about what happened in the House, they are ignoring the rare 
bipartisan support that we have.
  Just last week, 190 House Republicans voted to end the National 
Security Agency's illegal program. There is bipartisan consensus in 
favor of ending this program. Many of the Republican leader's own 
colleagues have called for it as well.
  Last week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and James Clapper, Director 
of National Intelligence, wrote a letter to Senator Leahy, the ranking 
member of the Judiciary Committee. Both the Attorney General and the 
Director of National Intelligence voiced their support for the USA 
FREEDOM Act, saying:

       Overall, the significant reforms contained in this 
     legislation will provide the public greater confidence in how 
     our intelligence activities are carried out and in the 
     oversight of those activities, while ensuring vital national 
     security authorities remain in place.

  I agree with that statement. But sadly, the majority leader continues 
to stand in the way of bipartisan reform to end these illegal 
practices. As we face the June 1 expiration of these authorities, the 
majority leader still offers no viable alternative.
  We cannot allow this program to be extended. The majority leader 
should listen to the American people because we cannot extend an 
illegal act. That is what the majority leader is asking us to do.
  The majority leader should listen to the American people, consider 
the action of his Republican colleagues, and respect the expertise of 
the intelligence community.
  The Senate should act now on the USA FREEDOM Act before it leaves for 
the Memorial Day recess and restore the confidence of the American 


[Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 77 (Tuesday, May 19, 2015)]
[Pages S3012-S3013]

                            USA FREEDOM ACT

  Mr. LEAHY. On another issue, in just 12 days, section 215 of the USA 
PATRIOT Act, along with two other surveillance authorities, will 
expire. And once again, the Senate Republican leadership is scrambling 
at the last minute to avoid a crisis of its own making.
  Last year, we had a chance to pass the USA FREEDOM Act of 2014, and I 
urged the Senate to pass it. A majority of Senators, but not 60, voted 
for it because we all knew the expiration date for these surveillance 
authorities was right around the corner. We knew May 31 would arrive 
quickly in the new Congress.
  I did not want our intelligence community to face a period of 
uncertainty leading up to the sunset, and I also didn't want the 
American people to have billions of their phone records stocked away in 
a government database any longer--especially as we have seen, in the 
case of Edward Snowden, just how insecure that database can be.
  That is why we spent months holding six public hearings in the 
Judiciary Committee and even more months negotiating a bipartisan bill, 
which got the support of the administration, the intelligence 
community, privacy groups, and the technology industry. I think that is 
the first time we have had all of them together.
  Unfortunately, my attempts to avoid this last-minute chaos were 
blocked by the Republican leader last year. He said this was a matter 
that could wait for the new Congress. He said the new Republican 
majority would have a rigorous committee process for important issues.
  Well, five months into the new Republican majority, and with the 
deadline looming, the Republican leader has just now turned his 
attention to this issue.
  The Republican-led Senate committees have not taken steps toward 
reauthorization or reform. Instead, the majority leader now proposes a 
60-day extension of a program that a Federal court of appeals just 
ruled is unlawful. The court ruled unanimously that it is unlawful, and 
they are saying, well, let's just extend the bulk collection program 
for another 60 days.
  The majority leader apparently wants to do this to allow one of his 
committee chairmen to develop a last-minute ``back-up plan.'' This is 
why we tried to pass legislation a year ago.
  The House of Representatives is not going to pass a 60-day extension, 
nor should it. We should not extend this illegal program for one more 
day, and we do not need to do so. After all, we have a solution in 
hand. Why try to ignore reality and go on with something else?
  We have a responsible solution. In fact, it is the only responsible 
solution. Broad consensus has developed around the bipartisan USA 
FREEDOM Act of 2015.
  The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence wrote 
a letter in support of the bill. The FBI Director told me he supports 
it. This past weekend, the former chairman and ranking member of the 
House Intelligence Committee advocated for passage of this legislation 
in an article in the Baltimore Sun.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that these materials be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                 [From the Baltimore Sun, May 15, 2015]

Intelligence Reform Bill Is Important to Safeguarding Our Security and 

             (By C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Mike Rogers)

       The USA Freedom Act will protect our security and privacy.
       A recent Baltimore Sun editorial described legislation to 
     reform the government's collection of Americans' phone and 
     email data as a sign that ``bipartisan cooperation in 
     Congress is not completely dead'' (``Reining in the 
     surveillance state,'' May 5). We'd like to remind The Sun 
     that similar legislation to end the mass storage of this data 
     passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority--it 
     garnered more than 300 votes, in fact--over a year ago.
       In our role as leaders on the House Intelligence Committee, 
     we drafted and introduced last year's bill together with our 
     colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, Reps. Bob Goodlatte 
     and John Conyers. Our success provided the foundation for the 
     legislation that passed the House by an even larger margin on 
     Wednesday. The USA Freedom Act ends the bulk collection of 
     what we now know as ``metadata''--that big database up at the 
     National Security Agency that contains the phone numbers of 
     millions of Americans will go away. The government will now 
     have to seek court approval before petitioning private cell 
     phone companies for records. The court will have to approve 
     each application, except in emergencies, and major court 
     decisions will be made public.
       We need this reform to keep our country safe. Section 215 
     of the Patriot Act, which is the part that legalizes much of 
     NSA's critical work to protect us from terrorists, expires in 
     less than three weeks on June 1. If we do not reauthorize it 
     with the reforms demanded by the public, essential 
     capabilities to track legitimate terror suspects will expire, 
       That couldn't happen at a worse time--we live in a 
     dangerous world. The threats posed by ISIS and other terror 
     groups are just the tip of the iceberg. We also need strong 
     defenses against increasingly aggressive cyber terrorists and 
     the ``lone wolf'' terrorists who are often American citizens, 
     for example.
       This bill restores Americans' confidence that the 
     government is not snooping on its own citizens by improving 
     the necessary checks and balances essential to our Democracy. 
     We helped write it last year, we support it this year and we 
     hope Republicans and Democrats continue working together on 
     common sense reforms to protect our national security and our 
     civil liberties.

                                                     May 11, 2015.
     Senator Patrick J. Leahy,
     U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
     Senator Mike S. Lee,
     U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
       Dear Senators Leahy and Lee: Thank you for your letter of 
     May 11, 2015, asking for the views of the Department of 
     Justice and the Intelligence Community on S. 1123, the USA 
     FREEDOM Act of 2015. We support this legislation.
       This bill is the result of extensive discussion among the 
     Congress, the Administration, privacy and civil liberties 
     advocates, and industry representatives. We believe that it 
     is a reasonable compromise that preserves vital national 
     security authorities, enhances privacy and civil liberties 
     and codifies requirements for increased transparency. The 
     Intelligence Community believes that the bill preserves the 
     essential operational capabilities of the telephone metadata 
     program and enhances other intelligence capabilities needed 
     to protect our nation and its partners. In the absence of 
     legislation, important intelligence authorities will expire 
     on June 1. This legislation would extend these authorities, 
     as amended, until the end of 2019, providing our intelligence 
     professionals the certainty they need to continue the 
     critical work they undertake every day to protect the 
     American people.
       The USA FREEDOM Act bans bulk collection under Section 215 
     of the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA pen registers, and National 
     Security Letters, while providing a new mechanism to obtain 
     telephone metadata records to help identify potential 
     contacts of suspected terrorists inside the United States. 
     The Intelligence Community believes, based on the existing 
     practices of communications providers in retaining metadata, 
     that these provisions will retain the essential operational 
     capabilities of the existing bulk telephone metadata program 
     while eliminating bulk collection by the government.

[[Page S3013]]

       The bill also codifies requirements for additional 
     transparency by mandating certain public reporting by the 
     government, authorizing additional reporting by providers, 
     and establishing a statutory mechanism for declassification 
     and release of FISA Court opinions consistent with national 
     security. It establishes a process for appointment of an 
     amicus curiae to assist the FISA Court and FISA Court of 
     Review in appropriate matters. It provides reforms to 
     national security letters, requiring review of the need for 
     their secrecy. The bill also closes potential gaps in 
     collection authorities and increases the maximum criminal 
     penalty for materially supporting a foreign terrorist 
       Overall, the significant reforms contained in this 
     legislation will provide the public greater confidence in how 
     our intelligence activities are carried out and in the 
     oversight of those activities, while ensuring vital national 
     security authorities remain in place. You have our commitment 
     that we will notify Congress if we find that provisions of 
     this law significantly impair the Intelligence Community's 
     ability to protect national security. We urge the Congress to 
     pass this bill promptly.
                                                 Loretta E. Lynch,
                                                 Attorney General.
                                                 James R. Clapper,
                                Director of National Intelligence.

  Mr. LEAHY. But even more importantly, last week the House of 
Representatives passed the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 with an overwhelming 
vote of 338 to 88. At a time when the public says Congress is locked in 
partisan gridlock, look at this overwhelming vote of Republicans and 
Democrats for the USA FREEDOM Act. Well, the Senate ought to do the 
same thing the House did.
  We can keep our country safe without a government database of 
billions of Americans' phone records. I think about Richard Clarke, who 
is a former counterterrorism official. He spent six months examining 
this program as a member of the President's Review Group. He concluded 
the program has ``no benefit.'' We do not need it, and, more 
importantly, Americans do not want it.
  I fear that if Congress does not end this bulk collection program, it 
will only open the door to the next dragnet surveillance program. Next 
time it will not just be phone records. It might be location 
information or medical records or credit card records. That is why it 
is so important to stop it now.
  Some will say Congress doesn't need to act because the Second Circuit 
has already ruled that this program is illegal. I have read the court's 
decision, I agree with it, and I hope this panel decision will 
ultimately be upheld by the Supreme Court. But there are other pending 
lawsuits and it could be months or even years before we know how the 
courts will ultimately rule on this issue.
  In addition, the USA FREEDOM Act doesn't just end bulk collection 
under section 215 and the other national security authorities; it also 
contains other important reforms that cannot be won through legal 
challenges, such as new transparency measures and a panel of experts 
from which the FISA Court can draw on for amicus support. So the courts 
made it very clear Congress has to act.
  Congress has spent years working on these issues, with numerous 
hearings. The Senate last year came up with basically the same bill the 
House has just overwhelmingly passed. We shouldn't be staying around 
here talking about whether we are going to go over the brink. We are 
going to put our intelligence community under pressure.
  The USA FREEDOM Act is a responsible solution that can pass both 
Chambers today, including with a majority vote for it in this body 
today. Its enactment will ensure that these expiring provisions do not 
sunset. I urge Senators to support it.
  Let us not play politics with the security of this country. Let us 
talk about what really can be done, what has been done in a 
responsible, bipartisan way in the other body, and let us step up and 
do the same in the Senate. That is what I would urge, not this 
brinkmanship which will actually bring about the end of all of these 
provisions. Maybe some would like that. I think we have a better 
balance here with the USA FREEDOM Act.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum, and ask unanimous consent that the 
time be equally divided between the two parties.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.