Enact the USA Freedom Act

Next week, the Senate is scheduled to take up the proposed USA Freedom Act. It is imperative that the Senate approve this legislation.

The USA Freedom Act addresses many of the issues raised by the NSA's program of bulk telephone metadata collection. This program, which has caused such consternation, was approved by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the White House. Under the program, the NSA was authorized to collect from telephone service providers massive amounts of indiscriminate data about Americans' phone call records.

The purpose of gathering this data was to enable the NSA to determine whether suspected terrorists outside the United States were talking to suspected terrorists inside the United States.

After the existence of the program was made public by Edward Snowden, President Obama appointed a five-person Review Group to examine the NSA's foreign intelligence surveillance programs and to make recommendations about how those programs might be redesigned to strike a better balance between the nation's compelling interests in individual privacy and national security.

This Review Group, of which I was a member, spent four months meeting intensively with the NSA, the FBI, Homeland Security, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, officials from the Department of Justice, representatives of most of the nation's privacy and civil liberties organizations, and a host of other individuals and organizations.

In the end, the Review Group produced a comprehensive 300-page report, Liberty and Security in a Changing World, which made forty-six unanimous recommendations about how to reform our nation's foreign intelligence surveillance programs.

Although the USA Freedom Act does not address all of the issues addressed in the report, it adopts most of the Review Group's most important recommendations for limiting the bulk collection of the telephone metadata of American citizens. The proposed Act is a huge step forward in our nation's effort to redesign our surveillance programs to protect the privacy of American citizens without sacrificing the compelling need to protect our national security.

This legislation should be adopted by the Senate, enacted by the House and signed by the President -- without delay.