A recent Baltimore Sun editorial described legislation to reform the government's collection of Americans' phone and email data as a sign that "bipartisan cooperation in Congress is not completely dead" ("Reining in the surveillance state," May 5). We'd like to remind The Sun that similar legislation to end the mass storage of this data passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority — it garnered more than 300 votes, in fact — over a year ago.
In our role as leaders on the House Intelligence Committee, we drafted and introduced last year's bill together with our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, Reps. Bob Goodlatte and John Conyers. Our success provided the foundation for the legislation that passed the House by an even larger margin on Wednesday. The USA Freedom Act ends the bulk collection of what we now know as "metadata" — that big database up at the National Security Agency that contains the phone numbers of millions of Americans will go away. The government will now have to seek court approval before petitioning private cell phone companies for records. The court will have to approve each application, except in emergencies, and major court decisions will be made public.
We need this reform to keep our country safe. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is the part that legalizes much of NSA's critical work to protect us from terrorists, expires in less than three weeks on June 1. If we do not reauthorize it with the reforms demanded by the public, essential capabilities to track legitimate terror suspects will expire, too.
That couldn't happen at a worse time — we live in a dangerous world. The threats posed by ISIS and other terror groups are just the tip of the iceberg. We also need strong defenses against increasingly aggressive cyber terrorists and the "lone wolf" terrorists who are often American citizens, for example.
This bill restores Americans' confidence that the government is not snooping on its own citizens by improving the necessary checks and balances essential to our Democracy. We helped write it last year, we support it this year and we hope Republicans and Democrats continue working together on common sense reforms to protect our national security and our civil liberties.
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Mike Rogers, Washington
Mr. Ruppersberger, a Democrat, represents Maryland's 2nd Congressional District. Mr. Rogers, a Republican, is a former Congressman from Michigan.