Major sections of the Patriot Act expired on June 1, 2015, in line with the public sentiment. Yet Congress moves to revive the mass surveillance powers.
On Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 67 US Senators voted to give the government back its legislative justification for executing mass surveillance on the phone calls of all Americans.
Each member of the Senate who voted for the USA Freedom Act will now be on record for re-instating—with full knowledge of its illegal usage—a piece of the largest scale violation of the US Constitution in America’s history. They will carry that failure into the next elections, and through the rest of their political careers.
"The public wants a complete end to mass suspicionless surveillance, not more government deception and doublespeak," said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, "Sunsetting the Patriot Act was a step toward the major structural changes we need to restore privacy, and now Congress is taking a giant leap in the wrong direction with the USA Freedom Act, which revives one of the most badly abused pieces of legislation in U.S. history. It’s enough to make even the most trusting citizens question the intentions of their government."
"We have made it clear to the world these programs are useless and need to end. What we did was change the conversation from should we end mass surveillance to how? The answers Congress is coming up with so far, like the faux reform USA Freedom Act, are wrong and dangerous. But at least the public has forced them to start asking the right questions’” added Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future.
“The sunset of the Patriot Act provisions marks a historic moment that–for the past 13 years until just weeks ago–was unthinkable. It happened because of massive public pressure to see these programs end, and because a few senators, including Senator Paul, had the courage to actually listen to the public, and to take a stand for their own principles and the principles embodied in the Constitution. By passing USA Freedom Congress just threw that victory away. But for a brief moment, if the administration was in fact following the law, Americans were able to call their loved ones without the government tracking them.That alone is worth celebrating, but now Congress is moving to take that freedom away once again,” added Holmes Wilson, co-founder of Fight for the Future.
In the weeks leading up to the expiration deadline for Section 215 of the PATRIOT ACT, polls were released which showed the public’s opposition to the government’s surveillance of U.S. citizens. In addition, a report from the Department of Justice identified these programs as ineffective for counter-terrorism. The public also organized against these programs, sending hundreds of thousands of emails and calls to Congress, organizing 40+ vigils at senators’ district offices, blacking out Congress’ access to tens of thousands of websites, and coordinating letter drop-offs at lawmakers’ district offices.
Fight for the Future and dozens of other groups have vowed to continue the fight to end mass government surveillance, working toward a full repeal of the Patriot Act, FISA Amendments Act, and other structural changes needed to restore our basic human right to communicate privately and express ourselves freely. Fight for the Future will continue its work to spread easy-to-use, strong encryption tools through campaigns like Reset the Net, to protect people everywhere from rogue government programs, like those reauthorized today.
"Thanks to Edward Snowden and the free and open Internet, the global public is more aware than ever before of the U.S. government’s abusive spying operations. The members of Congress who just voted to reauthorize and expand these programs will soon learn that the Internet-using public is not easily fooled, and we will not forget the names of the politicians who raised their hands and voted to take away our freedoms mere moments after we had restored them," concluded Greer.