Lofgren Announces FISA Amendment Agreement that Protects Americans’ Privacy

May 26, 2020
Press Release
Bipartisan Lofgren-Davidson Amendment Prohibits Government Collection of Americans’ Internet Activity Without a Warrant

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), issued the below statement on a House agreement to allow consideration of the bipartisan Lofgren-Davidson amendment that would prohibit the collection of Americans’ internet search history and web browsing data without a warrant:

“After extensive bicameral, bipartisan deliberations, there will be a vote to include a final significant reform to Section 215 that protects Americans’ civil liberties.

“Our internet activity opens a window into the most sensitive areas of our private life, and, this week, Representatives will be able to vote to prevent the government from using Section 215 to collect the websites we visit, the videos we watch and the searches we make. Without this prohibition, intelligence officials can potentially have access to information such as our personal health, religious practices, and political views without a warrant. As such, I urge my colleagues to support the Lofgren-Davidson amendment and Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.

“I’ve been working for more than 15 years to secure real reforms to Section 215 and FISA. With this final provision included, Congress can finally pass a meaningful and bipartisan reform package to improve our country’s powerful surveillance programs.”

Lofgren-Davidson Amendment Details

The amendment – which is supported by Reps. Adam Schiff, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Jerrold Nadler, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee – is an outright prohibition: the government will not be able to use Section 215 to collect the websites that a U.S. person visits, the videos that a U.S. person watches, or the search queries that a U.S. person makes.

Specifically:

  • If the government is not sure if you’re a U.S. person, but you could be, the government cannot get your internet activity without a Title I FISA warrant.
  • If the government wants to order a service provider to produce a list of everyone who has visited a particular website, watched a particular video, or made a particular search query: the government cannot make that order unless it can guarantee that no U.S. persons’ IP addresses, device identifiers, or other identifiers will be disclosed to the government.
    • This amendment does not allow for the incidental collection of U.S. persons’ web browsing or search information when the target is a specific-selection term that would or could produce such information.
  • This prohibition is a strict liability-type provision. (It isn’t a knowledge standard or a reasonable-belief standard. An order must not result in the production of a U.S. person’s web browsing or search information.)
  • If the order would or could result in the production of a U.S. person’s web browsing or search information, the government cannot order it without a Title I FISA warrant that must be narrowly tailored toward the subject of the warrant.

Prior Actions

On May 20, 2020, Lofgren and Warren Davidson (R-OH-8) urged House leaders to allow a vote on a companion Wyden-Daines amendment when issuing a rule for the Senate amendment to H.R. 6172, the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020.

On May 13, 2020, ahead of the Senate Floor vote, Lofgren and Warren Davidson (R-OH-8), sent a letter to Senate leaders in support of the Lee-Leahy and Wyden-Daines amendments.

On March 16, 2020, Lofgren and Davidson sent a letter urging Senators to reject the unamended version of the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act.

On March, 10, 2020, Lofgren and Davidson announced their support for two bipartisan bills, S. 3420 and S. 3421, introduced by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VA) that provide two paths forward for NSA surveillance reform.

On February 27, 2020, following the postponement of the markup for H.R. ___, the “USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020,” in the House Judiciary Committee the day before, Lofgren and Davidson sent a letter to Chairman Jerrold Nadler urging him to schedule a markup of their bipartisan bill, H.R. 5675.

On January 24, 2020, Lofgren, Davidson and a coalition of bipartisan Representatives joined Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) in introducing bicameral surveillance reform legislation that:

  • closes loopholes and strengthens oversight to prevent government overreach and abuse;
  • permanently ends the indiscriminate collection of massive amounts of domestic communications;
  • prohibits warrantless collection of geolocation and web browsing data by intelligence agencies; and
  • ensures the Intelligence Community is held to the standards established under the Fourth Amendment.

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