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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday afternoon, leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives canceled plans to hold a floor vote to extend controversial surveillance powers under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Passage of the base bill would have come only after debate and votes on positive amendments offered on a bipartisan basis by House Judiciary members, as well as damaging amendments from Intelligence Committee members. The Judiciary Committee amendments represent significant reforms and have overwhelming public support.

The decision to cancel the vote came after a coalition of privacy, civil-rights and digital-rights groups sent thousands of constituent phone calls and petitions calling on lawmakers to vote “no” on legislative attempts to reauthorize these powers without those significant reforms. The decision came shortly after Speaker Mike Johnson convened a meeting of the House Rules Committee, during which there emerged “sharp division” over whether the bill violated people’s essential privacy rights, according to press reports.

Parts of the debate over the controversial bill were reportedly going to take place during a secret session of the House, something Congress has undertaken only four times since 1830.

In a memo sent to members of Congress on Wednesday morning, Free Press Action strongly encouraged lawmakers to oppose any secret sessions that would hide this important debate from the public. Free Press Action also urged members to support amendments that would close any backdoor-search and data-broker loopholes, and to oppose any amendments that would expand Section 702’s warrantless surveillance authority.

Free Press Action Policy Counsel Jenna Ruddock said:

“Loopholes in our federal laws enable law enforcement and intelligence agencies like the FBI and NSA to spy on us — our calls, texts, emails, locations, internet histories, even medical data — without adequate public or judicial oversight. These loopholes enable warrantless surveillance of our electronic communications and allow private companies to sell troves of our data to government agencies — undermining our constitutional rights and basic due process.

“We should never allow warrantless surveillance of people in the United States, especially in an era where our digital privacy is deeply tied to reproductive care, racial justice, protest rights and essentially every aspect of civic and economic life. If Congress is going to advance a package reauthorizing tools that are allegedly necessary for foreign surveillance — but are so often misused and abused to target people in this country — lawmakers have to get it right. Any bill must protect our Fourth Amendment rights through warrant requirements and must ban government purchase of our data from commercial entities.

“We’ve seen protesters, lawmakers, journalists, judges and others investigated and intimidated because of Section 702 and the data-broker loophole. Some people in Congress are rushing to extend this authority when they should be reining it in. Lawmakers know that the public overwhelmingly opposes expanding this often-abused authority, which is why leaders keep trying to ram this through before we notice — but we always notice.”

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