Sec. 309 It,s All Legal Now.
When I learned that the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015 was being rushed to the floor for a vote—with little debate and only a voice vote expected (i.e., simply declared “passed” with almost nobody in the room)—I asked my legislative staff to quickly review the bill for unusual language. What they discovered is one of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative: It grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American.
On Wednesday afternoon, I went to the House floor to demand a roll call vote on the bill so that everyone’s vote would have to be recorded. I also sent the letter below to every representative.
With more time to spread the word, we would have stopped this bill, which passed 325-100. Thanks to the 99 other representatives—44 Republicans and 55 Democrats—who voted to protect our rights and uphold the Constitution. And thanks to my incredibly talented staff.
Block New Spying on U.S. Citizens: Vote “NO” on H.R. 4681
The intelligence reauthorization bill, which the House will vote on today, contains a troubling new provision that for the first time statutorily authorizes spying on U.S. citizens without legal process.
Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of the intelligence reauthorization bill with a new Sec. 309—one the House never has considered. Sec. 309 authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of nonpublic communications, including those to and from U.S. persons. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.
To be clear, Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena. The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.
Supporters of Sec. 309 claim that the provision actually reins in the executive branch’s power to retain Americans’ private communications. It is true that Sec. 309 includes exceedingly weak limits on the executive’s retention of Americans’ communications. With many exceptions, the provision requires the executive to dispose of Americans’ communications within five years of acquiring them—although, as HPSCI admits, the executive branch already follows procedures along these lines.
In exchange for the data retention requirements that the executive already follows, Sec. 309 provides a novel statutory basis for the executive branch’s capture and use of Americans’ private communications. The Senate inserted the provision into the intelligence reauthorization bill late last night. That is no way for Congress to address the sensitive, private information of our constituents—especially when we are asked to expand our government’s surveillance powers.
I urge you to join me in voting “no” on H.R. 4681, the intelligence reauthorization bill, when it comes before the House today.
Member of Congress
U.S. Representatives Who Voted NO:
So “we” won the Senate? Look at just what a fat lot of good that did us.
SEC. 309. PROCEDURES FOR THE RETENTION OF INCIDENTALLY ACQUIRED COMMUNICATIONS.
- (1) COVERED COMMUNICATION- The term ‘covered communication’ means any nonpublic telephone or electronic communication acquired without the consent of a person who is a party to the communication, including communications in electronic storage.
(2) HEAD OF AN ELEMENT OF THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY- The term ‘head of an element of the intelligence community’ means, as appropriate–
- (A) the head of an element of the intelligence community; or
(B) the head of the department or agency containing such element.
(3) UNITED STATES PERSON- The term ‘United States person’ has the meaning given that term in section 101 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801).
- (A) the head of an element of the intelligence community; or
(b) Procedures for Covered Communications-
(1) REQUIREMENT TO ADOPT- Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act each head of an element of the intelligence community shall adopt procedures approved by the Attorney General for such element that ensure compliance with the requirements of paragraph (3).
(2) COORDINATION AND APPROVAL- The procedures required by paragraph (1) shall be–
- (A) prepared in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence; and
(B) approved by the Attorney General prior to issuance.
(3) PROCEDURES- (paragraph 3)
(A) APPLICATION- The procedures required by paragraph (1) shall apply to any intelligence collection activity not otherwise authorized by court order (including an order or certification issued by a court established under subsection (a) or (b) of section 103 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1803)), subpoena, or similar legal process that is reasonably anticipated to result in the acquisition of a covered communication to or from a United States person and shall permit the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of covered communications subject to the limitation in subparagraph (B).
(B) LIMITATION ON RETENTION- A covered communication shall not be retained in excess of 5 years, unless–
(i) the communication has been affirmatively determined, in whole or in part, to constitute foreign intelligence or counterintelligence or is necessary to understand or assess foreign intelligence or counterintelligence;
(ii) the communication is reasonably believed to constitute evidence of a crime and is retained by a law enforcement agency;
(iii) the communication is enciphered or reasonably believed to have a secret meaning;
(iv) all parties to the communication are reasonably believed to be non-United States persons;
(v) retention is necessary to protect against an imminent threat to human life, in which case both the nature of the threat and the information to be retained shall be reported to the congressional intelligence committees not later than 30 days after the date such retention is extended under this clause;
(vi) retention is necessary for technical assurance or compliance purposes, including a court order or discovery obligation, in which case access to information retained for technical assurance or compliance purposes shall be reported to the congressional intelligence committees on an annual basis; or
(vii) retention for a period in excess of 5 years is approved by the head of the element of the intelligence community responsible for such retention, based on a determination that retention is necessary to protect the national security of the United States, in which case the head of such element shall provide to the congressional intelligence committees a written certification describing–
(I) the reasons extended retention is necessary to protect the national security of the United States;
(II) the duration for which the head of the element is authorizing retention;
(III) the particular information to be retained; and
(IV) the measures the element of the intelligence community is taking to protect the privacy interests of United States persons or persons located inside the United States.
HR 4681 is the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2015, https://www.opencongress.org/bill/hr4681-113/show which has now been passed in both the Senate and House, and now only awaits the Presidents signature.