As a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I conduct oversight of the 17 separate federal agencies that make up the U.S. Intelligence Community, including the CIA and National Security Agency. Since joining the committee in February 2013, I have worked to ensure the federal government strikes the right balance between respecting the privacy of American citizens and protecting our nation from acts of terrorism. I have sought to help shape and oversee our government’s effort to respond to emerging security threats in a bipartisan way to build a safer and more secure nation.
More than a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, we are still seeking a more sustainable balance among security, privacy and civil liberties.
For example, the PATRIOT Act that was signed into law after 9/11 gave the federal government sweeping authorities. While I believe many of the PATRIOT Act’s provisions are essential to fighting terrorism, I have voted against reauthorizing the law in its current form because in certain areas, it infringes on our right to privacy. We need to revise the PATRIOT Act to narrow its scope by drawing clear lines around the information that intelligence agencies can pursue and keep.
We must create stronger reporting and transparency requirements between the Intelligence Community and Congress so that we can perform our oversight role adequately. That is why I have pushed to advance legislation that will scale back existing data collection programs and bolster oversight of our intelligence activities.
In April 2014, I helped introduce bipartisan legislation (H.R. 4533) to increase independent oversight of the NSA by creating an independent inspector general for the agency. This powerful watchdog will be accountable to Congress and the American people. In addition, I am a cosponsor of legislation (H.R. 3228) to establish a public advocate for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA Court, which considers government requests for warrants to collect phone and Internet data, among other things. And I have sponsored a bill (H.R. 3779) that requires the Director of National Intelligence to submit an annual report about any violations of law or executive order by Intelligence Community personnel.
In May 2014, I joined a bipartisan majority on the Intelligence Committee in passing the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 3361), a bill that would end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone call records in favor of more targeted, individualized collection of information requiring pre-approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Unfortunately, the version later passed by the full House of Representatives was changed to allow for broader collection of Americans’ metadata, though still ending bulk collection. I still voted for final passage of the bill because while it was far from perfect, it was better than the status quo.
Also in May, the House of Representatives passed the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 (H.R. 4681), which included two amendments I sponsored to improve oversight of the NSA and ensure intelligence agencies are taking Americans’ privacy into consideration. The first amendment provides for an independent and Senate-confirmed Inspector General. The second amendment closes a reporting loophole by requiring an annual report on violations of law or executive order that were determined by an element of the intelligence community to have occurred.
In June, the House cleared the Senate version of the Intelligence Authorization Act (S. 1691) for fiscal 2014, sending the bill to President Obama for his signature. The measure represents the consensus of the House and Senate, and it includes the provision I called for to require the president to appoint a Senate-confirmed Inspector General for the NSA. I will keep pushing for additional reforms as Congress continues to work on a final Intelligence Authorization for fiscal 2015.