Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Court Ruling Against Illegal NSA Surveillance a Civil Liberties Victory

September 3, 2020
Press Release
Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) issued the following statement in response to a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which determined that the warrantless telephone surveillance program that secretly collected phone records of millions of Americans violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“Today’s court ruling reaffirms every American’s right to privacy found in the 4th Amendment to the Constitution,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “This flagrant government overreach through this NSA program and others show that we cannot stand idly by as our freedoms are undermined, even by entities within our own government. We must stand vigilant and fight for those freedoms. We must hold those responsible accountable for their abuse of power, and protect brave whistleblowers who expose them. We should never be presented with the false choice of freedom or security. We deserve better from our leaders — that they uphold our freedoms and work to secure our nation.”
The surveillance program in question began under President George W. Bush and continued under President Obama. In its ruling, the 9th Circuit noted that the program’s renewal by the FISA Court, beginning in 2006 and subsequently after that, were legally flawed.
As part of the unanimous, ruling by a panel of 3 judges — including appointees by President George W. Bush and President Obama — the Appeals Court debunked the Department of Justice argument that the government had a right to the data collected, arguing that it was voluntarily provided to the telecommunications providers by customers.
Today’s ruling also agreed with another unanimous, 2015 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that the NSA program was not consistent with Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, the statute used to authorize the program. Rep. Gabbard had previously raised this issue, decrying the program on the House Floor in 2013.
The NSA program in question was exposed by Edward Snowden who leaked details about it to the press and who subsequently fled to Russia to escape prosecution. In 2015, the program was officially terminated when Congress passed the USA FREEDOM Act. However, that bill created a new mechanism where phone providers retained their data instead of turning it over to the government.
Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has long advocated for reforms that address our government's responsibility to protect civil liberties and ensure a strong national defense. She has actively sought reforms to Section 702, the Patriot Act, introduced legislation to strengthen and expand the functions of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), and is a founding member of the bipartisan Fourth Amendment Caucus focused on protecting the privacy and security of Americans in the digital age.
In 2013, she voted against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) due to serious concerns about its lack of privacy protections. She has continually called for reforms to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) data collection practices and ending indiscriminate data collection. In 2014, she introduced the “Strengthening Privacy, Oversight, and Transparency Act” or “SPOT Act” to expand the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s (PCLOB) authority to play a watchdog role over surveillance conducted for purposes beyond counterterrorism.
She voted against the USA Freedom Act in 2015 and again in 2020, when she also submitted two amendments and argued that strong protections against the warrantless collection of Americans’ Internet browsing history must be added to the legislation in order to ensure warrantless surveillance and collection of data on American citizens would be prohibited. In 2018, she voted against the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and warrantless collection of Americans’ calls, emails, texts and other communications.
In 2017, she again voted to protect email privacy protections and introduced legislation to permanently end the collection of Americans’ Internet communications that merely mention identifying terms for foreign targets, but are not to or from those targets, also known as “about” surveillance.
She has also drawn attention to whistleblowers who have uncovered illegal surveillance activity and warned that efforts to prosecute those who report about it would threaten yet another Constitutional right, the freedom of the press.
Her work has earned her an A+ rating from civil liberties advocacy groups Restore the Fourth and Fight for the Future.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for over 17 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major in the Army Reserves. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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