Wyden, Paul, Amash and Lofgren Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Permanently End Mass NSA Surveillance of Phone Records

Press Release

Date: March 28, 2019
Location: Washington, DC

Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., today introduced the Ending Mass Collection of Americans' Phone Records Act in the Senate and House to permanently end the National Security Agency's scandal-plagued program to surveil Americans' phone records.

"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," Wyden said. "This bill is just the opening bid in a much-needed, broad overhaul of Section 215 of the Patriot Act."

"The federal government's appalling violations of our Fourth Amendment rights must end. This bill permanently stops one of the sprawling surveillance state's most intrusive overreaches and is the first step in a movement to reclaim the constitutional liberties sacrificed by the overreaching provisions of the PATRIOT Act," said Sen. Paul.

"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," said Amash. "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."

"There are more substantial reforms that Congress can make to the Patriot Act authorities expiring this year to protect Americans' Constitutional rights," Lofgren said. "We must also ensure that the 2015 reforms of THE USA FREEDOM Act are working as intended. However, this bill takes a first uncontroversial step by abolishing a program which has consistently had issues complying with the Constitution, is of questionable intelligence value, and--if news reports are to be believed--was discontinued by the NSA over 6 months ago."

Wyden, Paul, 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. 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.

The full bill text is available here.

Statements of Support

Andrew Crocker, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation: "EFF supports Senator Wyden's bill to end the government's ability to conduct ongoing suspicionless searches of Americans' telephone records. After nearly two decades of unconstitutional, wasteful mass surveillance of telephone metadata, it's time to remove this dangerous authority from the law."

Sean Vitka, Policy Counsel, Demand Progress: "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."

Sandra Fulton, Government Relations Director, Free Press Action: "Free Press Action thanks Senator Wyden for introducing this important bill to officially end the Call Detail Records provision embedded in Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Even after the passage of the USA Freedom Act in 2015, supposedly to narrow this dangerously overbroad program, the NSA continued to collect metadata from hundreds of millions of phone calls made by people in America.

"This program represents an egregious violation of our rights and it must end. Even if the NSA has reportedly stopped using this dragnet approach now, we need the certainty that this bill provides against it restarting on the basis of Section 215 or some other government theory.

"Ending this program, however, should be just a first step in legislative efforts to protect our civil liberties. As we move toward the sunset of Section 215 at the end of this year, lawmakers who care about curbing mass surveillance must demand even more robust reforms to protect our privacy. These spying powers are particularly concerning in the hands of an administration that has so aggressively targeted protesters and communities of color.

"Congress should oppose any efforts to renew the CDR program and the mass-surveillance practices it embodied should not be permitted under Section 215 or any other authority."

Alex Marthews, National Chair, Restore The Fourth: "Restore The Fourth enthusiastically supports Sen. Wyden's bill ending the collection of call detail records under this authority. The call detail records dragnet has violated the constitutional rights of millions of Americans, has never been shown to assist in any way with preventing attacks on the United States, and the NSA has never conducted it in compliance with the law."