News Release

Nation's Criminal Defense Bar: USA Freedom Act Falls "Far Short" of Necessary Reforms

Washington, DC (May 13, 2015) -- Late this afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the USA Freedom Act, with the support of the White House. The measure now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

"The USA Freedom Act has taken some important steps to address some of the massive surveillance and data collection that the U.S. government has undertaken in the name of intelligence gathering, but real reform has to address all surveillance programs and the broader context in which they operate. This much celebrated piece of legislation falls far short of the reforms needed to address the extraordinary surveillance programs and sentencing schemes implemented in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on September 11," said National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Theodore Simon. "While everyone has focused on the reforms to the government bulk collection of Americans' telephone data, a program declared unauthorized by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals last week, other troubling measures in this legislation are now one step closer to becoming law. In addition, there are no measures in this legislation to address the use by law enforcement in a wide array of domestic prosecutions of these vast pools of information the government has collected on a more relaxed standard than the Fourth Amendment requires. And there is nothing in there about giving notice to the accused in domestic prosecutions of the actual source of the evidence being used against them, no less to provide the accused with access to potentially exculpatory information in those databases, all in violation of the Constitution."

Among other provisions, the USA Freedom Act extends through 2019 the Patriot Act's extraordinary "roving wiretaps" and "lone wolf" surveillance programs, while increasing the maximum sentence to 20 years for violating the vague "material support" statute, a law so broad that it can ensnare even those who for humanitarian reasons interact with a U.S. government-designated terror group for the purposes of aiding civilians within that group's territorial control or criminalize pure speech.

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Contacts

Ivan J. Dominguez, NACDL Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or idominguez@nacdl.org for more information.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.