Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are backing a bill they say will protect Americans from unwanted government surveillance while also keeping the country safe from foreign threats.

The Security and Freedom Enhancement (SAFE) Act was introduced in March, just weeks before the April 19 sunset date for Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Act. The bipartisan bill would reauthorize Section 702 of FISA, which “requires U.S. communications companies to provide the intelligence community with information it gathers about foreign targets,” per Deseret News.

But it would add safeguards to Section 702 to protect U.S. citizens. This comes after recent reports of the government gathering data on Americans without warrants.

What the senators claimed

Both senators have opposed intelligence agencies’ use of Section 702 specifically to gather information from Americans.

“From warrantless searches targeting journalists, political commentators, and campaign donors to monitoring sitting members of Congress, these actions reveal a blatant disregard for individual liberties,” Lee said in the statement.

Durbin added in the statement that while Section 702 is a “valuable national security tool,” intelligence agencies use it to gather “massive amounts of Americans’ communications.” He said the FBI carried out “more than 200,000 warrantless searches of Americans’ communications” in one year — or 500 a day.

Sen. Lee has been vocal about government surveillance

In June of last year, Deseret News covered a hearing where Lee said there should be additional oversight and reform of Section 702. “Now let me be very clear, that number should not just be going down, that number should be zero,” he said in the hearing, regarding the “hundreds of thousands” of warrantless searches.

Additionally, last December, Deseret News reported that Lee told his congressional colleagues they should abandon “fig leaf” proposals that would enable the capture of even more private information of U.S. citizens. “(Intelligence agencies) know it’s not popular so they want to come up with a fig leaf that appears to address the problem but that doesn’t actually address it,” the senator said in a previous interview.

Examples of misuse

In the June hearing, Lee referenced an unsealed court document accessed by The Washington Post, saying that it included information about the FBI monitoring “19,000 donors to an unnamed congressional campaign, Black Lives Matter protesters, participants at the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots, and a member of Congress,” per the Deseret News.

In recent years, FISA Court reviews and congressional oversight have revealed FISA being misused by intelligence agencies, which Lee states — although purposeful for foreign communication — is no justification to ignore the Fourth Amendment.

“This stuff is not popular with the American people — not with liberals, not with conservatives, not with Democrats, not with Republicans,” he said in an interview with Deseret News.