Baldwin Introduces NDAA Amendment to Prohibit Warrantless Government Searches

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016 that would prohibit the government from conducting warrantless reviews of the content of Americans’ email and other communications under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

While that provision was intended to be used to only monitor foreign nationals, the National Security Agency (NSA) has admitted that it searches data obtained under Section 702 for information about American citizens. This amendment, cosponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), would close a loophole that continues to allow backdoor searches and the bulk collection of Americans’ personal communications.

“I voted against the PATRIOT Act more than a decade ago because I believed it would open the door to government overreach. Since then, we have seen that secret, domestic surveillance programs at the NSA have crossed the line,” said Senator Baldwin. “It is long past time for Congress to take action on this loophole that allows for warrantless backdoor searches of the content of Americans' personal communications. I’m proud to introduce this amendment so that we reign in government overreach and strengthen the civil liberties and freedoms of law abiding Americans that are guaranteed by our constitution.”

Last week, Senator Baldwin was the only Democrat to vote against the USA FREEDOM Act, which reauthorized several expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Senator Baldwin cosponsored an amendment by Senators Wyden and Paul that sought to address Section 702 but Majority Leader McConnell refused to give the amendment a vote. Baldwin cited the lack of reforms on warrantless backdoor searches as a significant factor in her vote opposing the legislation.

A bipartisan group of Members of the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), have also introduced legislation to close this loophole.