House to debate amendment to curb government access to private data

Jun 19, 2014 Issues: Defense and National Security

House to debate amendment to curb government access to private data

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new bipartisan effort to close intelligence agency backdoors and curb government access to private electronic data gained momentum today as the House prepares to debate an amendment sponsored by U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The amendment, offered to the Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 4870), would cut off funding to two government “backdoors” that currently allow intelligence agencies access to Americans private data and correspondence.

“There’s no question Americans have become increasingly alarmed with the breadth of unwarranted government surveillance programs used to store and search their private data,” said Sensenbrenner, Lofgren, and Massie. “By adopting this amendment, Congress can take a sure step toward shutting the back door on mass surveillance. This amendment will reinstate an important provision that was stripped from the original USA FREEDOM Act to further protect the Constitutional rights of American citizens. Congress has an ongoing obligation to conduct oversight of the intelligence community and its surveillance authorities.”

One “backdoor” would be shut by prohibiting the search of government databases for information pertaining to US citizens, without a warrant. The second door to be shut prohibits the NSA and CIA from requiring “backdoors” into products.

The amendment is supported by a broad coalition of privacy and civil liberties groups as well as tech companies, including, among others, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Liberty Coalition, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google, FreedomWorks, Campaign for Liberty, Demand Progress, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

A full list of cosponsors of the amendment is as follows: Reps. Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Lofgren (D-Calif.), Massie (R-Ky.), Conyers (D-Mich.), Poe (R-Texas), Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Jordan (R-Ohio), O'Rourke (D-Texas), Amash (R-Mich.), Holt (D-N.J.), Nadler (D-N.Y.), Petri (R-Wis.), DelBene (D- Wash.), Farenthold (R-Texas), Butterfield (N. Car.) and Sanford (S. Car.).