Posted June 1, 2015, 1:23 AM
The expiration of key PATRIOT Act provisions – even if only temporary – is a victory for the countless civil liberties activists in every congressional district in the country who, since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on government surveillance, have fought for real reform. It demonstrates that the public can win battles in Congress that just a few years ago we were barely able to fight at all.
However, the Senate failed the American people today. Despite overwhelming evidence that Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act violates our civil liberties without making us safer, the Senate overwhelmingly bowed to pressure from surveillance agencies and voted to advance a bill that would renew their illegal and ineffective mass surveillance authorities under the PATRIOT Act.
The USA FREEDOM Act is a mass surveillance bill dressed up as a reform bill, and its passage will authorize unconstitutional surveillance practices.
Given the cloture vote, it seems very likely that the USA FREEDOM Act will pass. But if that happens, each member of the U.S. Senate will be on record for re-instating, with full knowledge of illegal implementation, the largest scale violation of the U.S. Constitution in America’s history – one that is overwhelmingly unpopular with voters, and they will carry that failure through the rest of their political careers.
The expiration of the some of the worst abuses of the PATRIOT Act completely changes the political dynamics in the fight to end mass surveillance. The overwhelming majority of the sitting members of Congress never voted on the PATRIOT Act, and if they vote to reinstate Section 215 they will have gone on the record and must take direct responsibility for authorizing clearly unconstitutional and profoundly unpopular spying.
We will continue fighting to repeal the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act, rein in the surveillance state, and place real checks on government surveillance.
“As a telecom that can be compelled to participate in unconstitutional spying on Americans accused of no crimes, it’s of the greatest urgency that we end the worst abuses of the PATRIOT Act,” said Becky Bond, Vice President of CREDO Mobile. “Our surveillance agencies have gone rogue, and sunsetting the PATRIOT Act – even if just for a few days – is the first real step we’ve taken toward restoring civil liberties taken away in the wake of the September 11th attacks. Elected officials who voted to restore this dangerous mass surveillance authority via the USA FREEDOM Act cannot going forward claim to carry the mantle of civil liberties reform.”
“The overwhelming majority of Americans who don’t want to be indiscriminately spied on by their very own government have brought their will to bear in this fight – and have upended the inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom that said a sunset was impossible,” said David Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progress. “The fiercely contested battle over the PATRIOT Act and its temporary sunset demonstrate the growing power of the mass movement to reform America’s out-of-control surveillance agencies. With the expiration of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, each senator must now go on record and publicly decide whether to protect our civil liberties or codify unconstitutional government spying all over again through the USA FREEDOM Act.”
“Sunsetting the Patriot Act is the biggest win for ending mass surveillance programs, and one that conventional DC wisdom said was impossible. We are seeing history in the making and it was because the public stood up for our rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association – and there’s no turning back now,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future.
“It was like Congress had some sick fetish for George Orwell jokes, or couldn’t wait for the next Hunger Games to come out,” said Fight for the Future co-founder, Holmes Wilson, “They were about to reauthorize spying on the emails and calls of every American with a bill called ‘USA Freedom!’"
Press call Monday morning:
The organizations behind this release, and others, will take part in a press call to discuss the sunset and the USA FREEDOM Act tomorrow morning.
WHAT: An hour-long press call to discuss the Senate vote on the USA Patriot Act and the USA FREEDOM Act
WHEN: 9:00am EST Monday, June 1, 2015
WHERE: RSVP Ashley Houghton at Ashley@rethinkmedia.org for call in details.