WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Sens. Ron Wyden (D–Oregon) and Steve Daines (R–Montana) along with Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D–California), Warren Davidson (R–Ohio) and Pramila Jayapal (D–Washington) introduced the Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act (SAPRA), legislation that would significantly curtail the federal government’s ability to spy on and collect data from people in the United States.
The bipartisan legislation substantially reforms Section 215 authorities under the Patriot Act. As whistleblower Edward Snowden helped to expose in 2013, Section 215 is the provision the national-security agencies cite to support the unwarranted collection of phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans. Last year, the U.S. intelligence community shut down the program due to serious compliance issues and lack of utility. The bill codifies this decision and clearly revokes authority for the program.
The bill also puts in place a warrant requirement for location information as well as sensitive internet-search data. Critically, it would also require the inspector general of the Department of Justice to investigate the official use of surveillance powers to target people of color, ethnicities, political dissidents and religious groups. And the bill includes important notice requirements for criminal defendants and builds sunsets into secretive national-security letters.
Free Press Action Government Relations Director Sandra Fulton made the following statement:
“The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act is a major step forward in protecting people from warrantless and discriminatory surveillance by government authorities. Members of Congress should understand the impact of these laws on the nation’s most vulnerable communities, and should seize this moment to curtail the dragnet-surveillance powers that were granted under the deeply problematic and outdated Patriot Act.
“While surveillance in the U.S. has always focused on people of color and protesters, Trump has proven to be a unique threat to the most vulnerable communities and this is a crucial step to check these dangerous powers. We applaud Senators Wyden and Daines and Representatives Lofgren, Davidson and Jayapal for introducing this important legislation.”