UPDATE: The entire Massachusetts congressional delegation is now co-sponsoring the USA Freedom Act.
In a letter to a constituent, Representative Stephen Lynch has announced his co-sponsorship of the USA Freedom Act. The bill, introduced in the House by Patriot Act author Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, seeks to end the NSA/FBI bulk records collection program and set new limits on how the intelligence agencies can search the communications of Americans, among other reforms.
Lynch, a democrat representing Massachusetts' 8th congressional district, joins Representatives Capuano (D-07), McGovern (D-02), Tierney (D-06), and Keating (D-09) as co-sponsors on the House side. Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both democrats, are co-sponsors of the senate bill, put forward by Vermont democrat Pat Leahy.
That leaves Neal (D-01), Tsongas (D-03), Kennedy (D-04) and Clark (D-05) as the only members of the Massachusetts delegation who have not co-sponsored the bill, which is a critical first step towards putting an end to the unconstitutional and antidemocratic dragnet surveillance of Americans revealed by NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The Fourth Amendment was born in Boston, and we won't let it die. If your congressmember is still holding out on co-sponsorship, call them now and tell them to get in the game. Let's make sure the Massachusetts delegation sends a strong message, as a group, that privacy matters in the 21st century.
The full text of the letter from Rep. Lynch is below:
Thank you for contacting my office regarding H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act, introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and cosponsored by 125 bipartisan Members of Congress. Please know that I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the important issue of electronic surveillance reform.
As you may know, the USA FREEDOM Act would require greater oversight, transparency, and accountability in government surveillance and telephone metadata collection. In particular, H.R. 3361 would establish a higher standard of evidence for the government to meet when requesting an order, under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) to compel a person to produce "any tangible thing," including telephone records. In addition, this legislation also sets an elevated standard of evidence that the government must meet in order to issue National Security Letters that compel telecommunications companies, financial institutions, and credit agencies to provide customer information in furtherance of national security investigations. Moreover, H.R. 3316 would, in a manner consistent with legitimate national security concerns, require the Attorney General of the United States to declassify FISA Court decisions that involve a key legal or constitutional issue.
In response to your letter, please know that I am proud to cosponsor the USA FREEDOM Act, because I strongly believe that we must achieve a fairer balance between our critical interests in national security, individual privacy, and due process of law. For this reason, I have also introduced two pieces of legislation in the 113th Congress that will better safeguard Americans' privacy without compromising our paramount commitment to national security. H.R. 2849, the Privacy Advocate General Act, would establish an independent Office of the Privacy Advocate General to represent the personal privacy and civil liberties of the American people in FISA Court and ensure that FISA judges base their decisions only after hearing both sides of an electronic surveillance issue. In addition, H.R. 2684, the Telephone Surveillance Accountability Act, would enhance judicial oversight over the broad collection of domestic phone records by the National Security Agency and ensure that Congress receives monthly reports regarding the searching of bulk telephone data.
In light of the January 17, 2014 address by President Obama on electronic surveillance reform, it is even more imperative that Congress and the Administration work together to enhance oversight, transparency, and accountability in government surveillance activities on behalf of the American people and in accordance with our most sacred democratic traditions. Thank you again for contacting my office regarding the USA FREEDOM Act. Please feel free to contact my office if you would like additional information on this or any other issue.
Stephen F. Lynch
Member of Congress