Congress has the opportunity to do something brilliant this week.
In response to the massive outcry from people like you, we have a last-ditch effort for real, robust surveillance reform. But this won’t happen unless we continue to make a lot of noise.
On Thursday, the House will vote to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Unfortunately, the underlying bill is terrible and would actually work to expand government surveillance.
A chance for reform
BUT leadership has agreed to allow a vote on an amendment, called the USA Rights Act, that would substitute the language in the bill and get us as close to a dream reform bill as we’ve seen since Edward Snowden exposed the extent of government surveillance.
Section 702 allows the government to monitor the communications of people in the United States without a warrant. While the targets of Section 702 surveillance are supposedly foreign entities, Snowden revealed that the program allows for dragnet-like monitoring of phone and internet conversations of “United States persons.”
Privacy advocates call this the “backdoor-search loophole” and the USA Rights Act would fix it.
And not just that — this bill includes a number of crucial safeguards. It includes a “notice requirement” that requires the government to disclose whenever it uses information obtained from 702.
This is critical for defendants to assert their constitutional rights. It also helps ensure that information isn’t being misused for matters unrelated to national security.
The bill would also require the government to provide transparency around the number of people being surveilled. And it would have to be reauthorized after four years to ensure congressional oversight of this powerful authority.
The fight to curb government surveillance has been an uphill battle to say the least, but this week we have the chance to pass something great and put in place strong privacy protections that would rein in government spying and protect our rights.
Reauthorizing 702 without adopting the critical reforms offered in the USA Rights Act would fundamentally weaken our Fourth Amendment right to privacy.
We need to let our members of Congress know that we’re paying attention, and expect them to protect our privacy.