Important note: the Stand Against Spying Congressional Scorecard is not being maintained. It is provided here for historical reference, but is not a current reflection of legislators' effort to end mass surveillance.

Our Methodology

Our methodology is designed to recognize those members of Congress who have taken objective, measurable steps to enact meaningful surveillance reform in the past year, while also surfacing for the public those members of Congress who have not been engaged in the fight or who have promoted bills that would entrench mass surveillance.

What we considered

We only considered sponsorship or voting for a few key bills (and amendments in the House) that have been introduced since the Snowden revelations. These two factors--sponsorship or voting--represent where a member of Congress stands when it comes to surveillance reform. Voting history and co-sponsorships are objective, verifiable, and they are where the rubber meets the road for protecting privacy.

House: We focused on the two broadest, strongest bills: the Surveillance State Repeal Act and the original version of the USA FREEDOM Act. Both bills attempt to address multiple facets of the surveillance problem, including mass data collection, oversight, and transparency. While imperfect, both bills would be strong steps forward for civil liberties.

We also gave points to members of the House who voted for certain privacy-preserving amendments to the defense appropriations bills. Two highly publicized votes--the Conyers-Amash amendment of 2013 and the Massie-Lofgren amendment of 2014--each sought to tackle major issues with mass spying. The Conyers-Amash amendment, in particular, would curtail funding for mass surveillance.

We awarded negative points for co-sponsorships of the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act, which was introduced by the House Intelligence Committee and offers modest transparency benefits while attempting to codify mass surveillance into law.

In addition, we award negative points for voting for the USA FREEDOM Act that passed out of the House of Representatives. This bill was so altered by the time it went to the House floor for a vote that the overwhelming majority of civil liberties groups that had previously praised the bill withdrew their support, and many of its original co-sponsors also chose to vote against the bill. This version of the USA FREEDOM Act not only failed to address the problems with mass spying, it extended the sunsets on key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act until 2017 (instead of 2015).

Senate: We considered whether a senator has co-sponsored the original USA Freedom Act for positive points. We awarded negative points for co-sponsorship of the FISA Improvements Act of 2013, which offers only modest transparency benefits while attempting to codify mass surveillance into law.

Senators who have done neither receive a question mark. These senators can improve their grades if they co-sponsor the USA FREEDOM Act. We understand that Senators can not cosponsor USA FREEDOM until July 7 due to the recess, but Senators who have publicly and unequivocally committed to cosponsoring USA FREEDOM before that time will be awarded the points.

What we didn’t consider

We did not grade every surveillance reform bill introduced. There have been a variety of bills introduced since the Snowden revelations, and many take good steps toward promoting meaningful reform. However, we focus on two bills of particular importance to this debate: the original USA Freedom Act (before it was undermined in the House) because it had a solid chance of passing due to the co-sponsorship of Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, and Surveillance State Repeal Act sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt because it goes the furthest substantively.

We did not consider any statements made by any members of Congress. We did not look at position papers. We did not look at sign-on letters. While these are all positive actions, we graded only the most important actions: co-sponsorships and voting history.

Congressmembers who have not participated

Finally, we have given significant consideration to those members of Congress who have not been significantly involved in this debate, who have not co-sponsored the specific legislation we’re tracking or voted on any of these pieces of legislation. This is often the case with senators, who have not yet had the opportunity to vote on a bill. Ultimately, we decided that these individuals should get a question mark, but as various bills progress, we may award (or remove) points.

Now is the time for members of Congress to be representing their constituents and working to stop the mass surveillance. Sitting the debate out is not acceptable.

It should be noted that every senator can and should be co-sponsoring the original USA FREEDOM Act as introduced by Senator Leahy (S. 1599), and so all of them can and should get good scores in our scorecard. We encourage senators to add their names to the list of co-sponsors for USA FREEDOM, so we can publicly recognize their efforts to defend privacy.

For more detailed methodology, see below.

Detailed methodology

Scoring

In order to get an A, members of Congress needed to earn at least 4 points. There are multiple pathways for representatives to earn enough points for an A, but only one pathway for a senator to earn an A—namely, by co-sponsoring the USA FREEDOM Act.

A = 4 or above
B = 3
C = 2
D = 1
F = .5 or less
? = no voting or co-sponsorship history on the NSA surveillance reform bills we are grading

Note that question marks may be changed into letter grades and letter grades may change as the surveillance reform bills move through the legislative process.

SENATE

Cosponsoring Original USA FREEDOM Act

H.R.3361 (IH)/S.1599
Points: +4
Justification: This bill is designed to stop mass surveillance and includes key transparency and oversight reforms. While imperfect, it is a strong effort to end mass spying.
Please note that H.R. 3361 is the first version of the bill that has since been modified in the House.

More about the bill: The original version of the USA FREEDOM Act was designed to bring new levels of transparency to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (also known as the FISA court), introduce a special advocate to champion civil liberties in the FISA court, and impose new statutory limits on mass surveillance by the NSA across multiple surveillance statutes. However, the bill was a floor, not a ceiling; more needed to be done to ensure the bill effectively reined in the NSA and would not be susceptible to aggressive legal arguments in the FISA court or elsewhere.

Cosponsoring FISA Improvements Act of 2013

S.1631
Points: -4
Justification: This bill is designed to entrench mass surveillance while promising modest transparency fixes. It’s a bill written by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has historically defended the NSA's surveillance programs, and is often called a "fake fix" to NSA reform.

More about the bill: The FISA Improvements Act seeks to codify the NSA's bulk collection of calling records, allow the government to conduct "backdoor searches" of Americans' data, while also allowing any "law enforcement agencies" to access the NSA's database.

US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Cosponsoring Surveillance State Repeal Act

H.R. 2818
Points: +4
Justification: This bill is designed to stop mass surveillance and includes key transparency and oversight reforms. While imperfect, it is a strong effort to end mass spying.

More about the bill: The Surveillance State Repeal Act would repeal most of the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. In addition, it would: make improvements to the FISA court, like allowing appointment of advisors on technical issues; create a warrant requirement for the acquisition of any information about a US person; prohibit mandated backdoors in electronic devices; and add protection for certain whistleblowers within the intelligence community.

Voting for the Conyers-Amash Amendment to Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

H.Amdt. 413 (Amash) to H.R. 2397 Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2014 “Amendment sought to end authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act”
Points: +4
Justification: This amendment was designed to end mass surveillance, albeit through unconventional means (as a funding limitation attached to the defense appropriations bill). The vote for the Conyers-Amash amendment was a turning point in the surveillance debate, showcasing how many representatives were ready for real surveillance reform.

More about the amendment: This amendment would have prohibited the use of funding from the 2014 Department of Defense Appropriations Act for bulk collection of business records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, instead limiting collection to tangible things that "pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation," a narrower standard than the NSA uses now. The vote failed in July of 2013, 205-217.

Co-sponsoring Original USA FREEDOM Act

H.R.3361 (IH, or "Introduced in the House")/S.1599
Points: +4
Justification: This bill is designed to stop mass surveillance and includes key transparency and oversight reforms. While imperfect, it is a strong effort to end mass spying.
Please note that H.R. 3361 is the first version of the bill that has since been modified in the House.

More about the bill: The original version of the USA FREEDOM Act was designed to bring new levels of transparency to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (also known as the FISA court), introduce a special advocate to champion civil liberties in the FISA court, and impose new statutory limits on mass surveillance by the NSA across multiple surveillance statutes. However, the bill was a floor, not a ceiling; more needed to be done to ensure the bill effectively reined in the NSA and would not be susceptible to aggressive legal arguments in the FISA court or elsewhere.

Voting for the Sensenbrenner-Massie-Lofgren Amendment to Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2015

Amdt 935 to H.R. 4870 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2015
An amendment to prohibit use of funds by an officer or employee of the United States to query a collection of foreign intelligence information acquired under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act using a United States person identifier except in specified instances.
Points: +3
Justification: This amendment did not attempt to stop mass surveillance and thus is not enough, by itself, to get an A. However, it is an important amendment that closes loopholes in the law that the NSA is exploiting to invade users' privacy.

More about the Amendment: The Sensenbrenner-Massie-Lofgren amendment, which passed the House (293-123) on June 19, 2014, prohibits the use of funding for backdoor searches of Americans' communications. It also prohibits the use of funding for the NSA to mandate or request that private companies and organizations add backdoors to the encryption standards that are meant to keep you safe on the web.

Voting for the Version of the USA FREEDOM Act that passed the House

H.R.3361 (EH, or "Engrossed in House")
Roll call: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2014/roll230.xml
Points: -2
Justification: While originally a strong bill, it was watered down substantially before it passed the House. Many of the original cosponsors actually voted against the bill when it was brought for a final vote; however the passage of this bill gives the Senate an opportunity to take up reform. Thus, representatives are penalized only 3 points for voting for it, not 4. Please note that H.R. 3361 (EH) is the final version of the original USA FREEDOM Act that was modified after passing the House Judiciary Committee and before coming to the House floor for a final vote.

More about the bill: The original version of the USA FREEDOM Act was designed to rein in the NSA; however, the bill was amended heavily before it reached the Floor of the House for a vote. In its final version, core definitions in the bill were changed to continue a potential for the mass collection of records. The final version also removed many transparency requirements and strong FISA court reform that appeared in the original USA FREEDOM Act.

Co-Sponsoring FISA Transparency and Modernization Act

H.R. 4291
Points: -4
Justification: This bill is designed to entrench mass surveillance while promising modest transparency fixes. It’s a bill written by the House Intelligence Committee, which has historically defended the NSA's surveillance programs, and is often called a "fake fix" to NSA reform.

More about the bill: The FISA Transparency and Modernization Act seeks to codify the NSA's bulk collection of calling records, while also expanding the surveillance powers of the NSA. Worse, various provisions would codify a host of possible collection, retention, and searching procedures, including orders for production of records issued without any judicial approval.

Privacy Policy (credit: Stand Against Spying coalition)