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Durbin Votes Against FISA Reauthorization Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today voted against the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act (RISA).  Earlier this week, Durbin announced that without critical changes to improve RISA, he could not support the legislation.

Durbin, along with U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), filed a bipartisan amendment to RISA that would have required the government to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) before reviewing the contents of Americans’ private communications.  Requiring the government to obtain court approval before accessing the content of Americans’ private communications that get swept up in Section 702 surveillance would protect Americans while preserving Section 702 as a foreign intelligence collection tool.  The amendment was based on language from Durbin’s bipartisan Security and Freedom Enhancement (SAFE) Act, a compromise bill that protects Americans from foreign threats and from warrantless government surveillance.  An amended version of the Durbin-Cramer amendment was not agreed to ahead of final passage of RISA. 

“Congress’ intention when we passed FISA Section 702 was clear as could be—Section 702 is supposed to be used only for spying on foreigners abroad.  Instead, sadly, it has enabled warrantless access to vast databases of Americans’ private phone calls, text messages, and e-mails,” Durbin said.  “I’m disappointed that my narrow amendment to protect Americans while preserving Section 702 as a foreign intelligence collection tool was not agreed to.  If the government wants to spy on my private communications or the private communications of any American, they should be required to get approval from a judge, just as our Founding Fathers intended in writing the Constitution.  I recognize the importance of Section 702, but I could not rubberstamp the House’s flawed bill.  And without critical changes to improve this bill, I could not support it.”