WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed legislation to reauthorize abusive government surveillance powers that are due to expire on March 15. The USA Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020 passed on a 278–136 vote following significant opposition from civil-liberties champions in Congress and from leading privacy, racial-justice and constitutional-rights groups, including Free Press Action.
If approved by the Senate, the bill would reauthorize Section 215 powers Congress established under the USA Patriot Act in 2001. Section 215 is the provision national-security agencies cited in the past to support their unwarranted collection of phone records of hundreds of millions of people in the United States.
Free Press Action Government Relations Director Sandra Fulton made the following statement:
“The reauthorization of unchecked spying powers passed the House 278 to 136, but not without bipartisan opposition from a growing number of civil-liberties champions on the Hill. Seventy-five Democrats joined 60 Republicans and one independent to say that this legislation didn’t do enough to protect the privacy rights of people in the United States. That's nearly 50 more votes against the bill than the last time Section 215 was up for renewal.
“Opposition to this legislation is gaining momentum as the bill moves to the Senate. It’s unthinkable that anyone there would seek to grant an extension of these spying powers to the same agencies that have so often sidestepped safeguards and ignored Americans’ fundamental privacy rights. Every senator must vote against the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act and demand more reforms and restrictions to curb runaway government surveillance.”