House leadership included the measure in a government-funding bill — and even members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus went along with it.
WASHINGTON — On Thursday, 20 members of Congress sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee leaders demanding robust reforms to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which is scheduled to “sunset” on Dec. 15, 2019.
The letter, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Rashida Tlaib, urges Congress to adopt critical reforms for multiple reasons, but particularly in response to the acute threat to civil liberties posed by the Trump administration.
Additional signers are Reps. Donald S. Beyer Jr., Judy Chu, Lloyd Doggett, Jesús G. “Chuy” Garcia, Raúl M. Grijalva, Debra Haaland, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alan Lowenthal, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Frank Pallone Jr., Bobby L. Rush, Jan Schakowsky, José E. Serrano, Mark Takano and Nydia M. Velazquez.
“Despite Congress’s efforts to reform this unprecedented mass surveillance through the USA FREEDOM Act, the government has since used Section 215 to collect sensitive information on innocent people,” the letter reads. “Therefore, we are writing to urge the Committee not to reauthorize these provisions without bold reforms to protect the privacy and civil rights of everyone in America, particularly the most vulnerable communities currently under attack by the Trump administration.”
“We don’t believe that any administration should have these sweeping powers, but this administration poses a unique threat to the most marginalized communities in the United States,” said Free Press Action Government Relations Director Sandra Fulton. “This Oval Office has been openly hostile to protesters — particularly protesters of color — immigrants, queer people, journalists and anyone else who questions Donald Trump’s actions. It’s hard to believe that we’re even debating whether to extend spying powers for a president facing an impeachment inquiry for allegedly abusing his authority to punish political foes.”
“Members of Congress, and in particular those representing the nation’s most vulnerable communities, should seize this historical moment to speak out against any extension of dragnet-surveillance powers,” Fulton added. “We build sunsets into national-security legislation to give Congress a chance to determine if a law remains necessary. And the PATRIOT Act, which was deeply problematic to begin with, has not aged well.”
“The representatives who have signed this letter, in particular Representatives Blumenauer and Tlaib, have drawn a much-needed line around the PATRIOT Act,” said Demand Progress Counsel Sean Vitka. “While mass surveillance affects all of us, it does not affect us all equally. The government has abused the PATRIOT Act and other foreign-intelligence surveillance authorities for more than 18 years. Democrats in Congress must now choose whether to give Donald Trump and his administration continued authority to conduct mass surveillance, or to protect the constituents that he is actively targeting.”
Congress must refuse to renew these powers until the FBI submits to proper oversight and transparency.
A coalition 30 of digital-rights, social-justice, and civil-liberties groups urged House Democrats to end a provision of the Patriot Act.
WASHINGTON — On Monday, a coalition of 30 digital-rights, social-justice and civil-liberties organizations sent a letter urging the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee to allow Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act to expire unless Congress enacts robust reforms.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration asked Congress to reauthorize the NSA’s authority under Section 215 to gain access to the domestic communications of people across the United States. This would allow the NSA to collect metadata from hundreds of millions of phone calls and text messages.
“Our millions of activists include members of the communities that the United States government has unlawfully surveilled in recent history and that the Trump administration is expressly threatening now,” reads the letter, which was organized by Color Of Change, Demand Progress and Free Press Action. “We oppose any legislation that does not end the Call Detail Records (CDR) program and substantially constrain the remainder of surveillance conducted under the Patriot Act and related authorities.”
The NSA program permits the mapping of relationships among members of marginalized communities and distant associates of targeted individuals, even when intelligence officials don’t suspect most individuals in those communities of wrongdoing.
“The deeply problematic Patriot Act granted sweeping spying powers that no administration should have, and they’re particularly dangerous in the hands of Trump,” said Free Press Action Government Relations Director Sandra Fulton. “This administration’s openly hostile policies are harming the most vulnerable communities in America. And over the last two years, we’ve seen leak after leak of documents showing the FBI targeting Black protesters fighting for racial justice. More recently we’ve learned that the Bureau is also spying on folks protesting inhumane immigration policies at the border. Unless House and Senate leadership work together to end the CDR and severely limit other Section 215 authorities, this disturbing trend will only worsen under Trump.”
“If Democrats can't secure an overhaul of the Patriot Act, they should use their majority in the House to ensure no reauthorization of Section 215 passes under their watch. The expiring provisions cannot survive without Democratic support,” said Demand Progress Policy Counsel Sean Vitka. "It would be unconscionable for a Democratic Party-controlled House to extend the power to conduct mass surveillance under this administration, especially given that government’s long and continuing history of misusing that power."
On Mon., Sept. 9, the Fourth Amendment Advisory Committee is convening a congressional briefing including both Fulton and Vitka to discuss what policymakers need to know before Congress considers reauthorizing Section 215’s surveillance powers. The CDR will expire on Dec. 15 unless Congress wrongly decides to renew it.
WASHINGTON — In August, the Trump administration asked Congress to reauthorize the National Security Administration’s authority to gain access to the domestic communications of people across the United States.
The authority, granted under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, allows the NSA to indiscriminately collect metadata from hundreds of millions of phone calls and texts. Without this congressional reauthorization, Section 215 will “sunset,” or expire, on Dec. 15.
On Mon., Sept. 9, the Fourth Amendment Advisory Committee will convene a panel of experts on Capitol Hill to discuss what policymakers need to know before Congress considers reauthorizing Section 215’s surveillance powers.
“The deeply problematic Patriot Act granted sweeping spying powers that no administration should have, and they’re particularly dangerous in the hands of Trump,” said Sandra Fulton, government relations director for Free Press Action. “This administration’s openly hostile policies are harming the most vulnerable communities in America. And over the last two years, we’ve seen leak after leak of documents showing the FBI targeting Black protesters fighting for racial justice. More recently we’ve learned that the Bureau is also spying on folks protesting inhumane immigration policies at the border. Unless we severely limit Section 215’s authority, this disturbing trend will only worsen under Trump.”
WHAT: Section 215 of the Patriot Act: the Good, the Bad and the Expiration
WHEN: Mon., Sept. 9, at 10 a.m.
WHERE: Rayburn 2237 House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
WHO: Panelists include Sandra Fulton, government relations director for Free Press Action; Jumana Musa, director of the Fourth Amendment Center at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Marcy Wheeler, senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University and primary author of the blog emptywheel.net; and Sean Vitka, counsel at Demand Progress
A light breakfast will be served. RSVP here.
The Fourth Amendment Advisory Committee is a coalition of privacy experts dedicated to supporting civil liberties and the work of the Congressional Fourth Amendment Caucus. They advise key decision-makers on issues related to the Fourth Amendment, especially in areas where law and technology intersect.