Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) held a press conference Tuesday morning in which they called for a bipartisan effort to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act.
Under current regulations, the FBI can conduct “backdoor” searches of American communications with foreign targets under suspicion without a warrant. Powers such as this one granted under Section 702 expire at the end of this year.
Paul, Lee, and Wyden have all been champions in the Senate for the right to privacy of Americans against the excesses of warrantless government spying on citizens.
The press conference today was joined by privacy advocates from left and right, with both the American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative-libertarian activist group FreedomWorks in attendance.
Paul said that he opposes permanent reauthorization of Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act without an open debate.
“I absolutely oppose permanent reauthorization,” Paul said. “Any reauthorization has to be paired with more oversight, not less.”
Lee concurred, calling a permanent reauthorization “completely unacceptable.”
The senators’ efforts come nearly a week after Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) sent a letter to House leadership regarding the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act.
Amash and dozens of his colleagues sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday cautioning House leadership against combining reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act with an end of the year spending bill.
“The government’s intelligence-gathering activities under the FISA Amendments Act raise important questions about security, privacy, transparency, civil rights, constitutional law, and the appropriate reach of government power in an age of dispersed, evolving national security issues,” the letter read.
Paul and Wyden introduced a bipartisan bill in October to combat warrantless governmental spying.
At an event earlier in the month at George Washington University, Paul and Wyden argued that the government should not sacrifice the liberty of American citizens for a false sense of security.
“We have made mistakes in our past, they do happen in times of war,” Paul said. “That’s why we need government oversight, to protect our rights and the minority in thought from unlawful surveillance.”