MA-based Fight for the Future urges Rep. Jim McGovern to fight Patriot Act renewal

Posted March 2, 2020, 6:20 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2020
CONTACT: press@fightforthefuture.org, 978-852-6457

McGovern has long history of fighting for civil liberties, and now he can wield his power as Rules Committee Chairman to protect privacy

As three FISA surveillance authorities, including an notoriously abused provision of the PATRIOT Act, are set to expire on March 15th, Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) will likely play a decisive role in the debate about them due to his role as Chairman of the House’s Committee on Rules. Now digital rights organization Fight for the Future — which was founded in Worcester, in the heart of MA-02 — is calling on McGovern to urgently join the fight for privacy. 

The expiring provisions include Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which was used by the NSA to justify collecting telephone metadata from essentially all Americans, as first revealed to the public by Edward Snowden in 2013. While some privacy advocates are urging reforms to the provisions, Fight for the Future is urging lawmakers to let the provisions expire.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee cancelled a vote to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act provisions after privacy advocates pushed for amendments meant to protect Americans from continued abuse of the government’s massive surveillance powers. The House and Senate are now left at an extraordinary impasse, with some lawmakers suggesting that the only way these key provisions of the PATRIOT Act can be reauthorized is by embedding them into an emergency bill to fund an emergency response to the coronavirus. 

As Chairman of House Rules, McGovern is in charge of deciding what will get a vote on the House floor, and whether amendments to it will be allowed. McGovern — who voted against the PATRIOT Act when it first passed — should make sure that any PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill goes through “regular order."  This means that the bill would go through the House Judiciary Committee, get a "clean” vote from the House of Representatives without being attached to any other legislation, and that members would be allowed to offer amendments to it. 

Jim McGovern has long been a champion for civil liberties and for “regular order” that would empower all lawmakers who care to protect the oppressed and those victimized by expansive presidential power to have their voices heard. Mass surveillance is always a threat to vulnerable communities, speech, and the very foundation of our democracy — but it is especially clear why that is so when our government is led by authoritarians like Donald Trump. 

“Since being passed into law in 2001, the PATRIOT Act has been routinely abused to spy on hundreds of millions of Americans,” said Dayton Young (he/him), Director of Product at Fight for the Future. “Federal courts have found that the PATRIOT Act violates the Constitution, and that law enforcement and intelligence agencies have broken numerous other laws in their execution of this misguided — and dangerous — legislation. It’s best if lawmakers simply let the PATRIOT Act expire once and for all, but it’s absolutely unconscionable that Democratic leaders would block any meaningful attempts at reform. Lawmakers should listen to the concerns of their constituents instead of trying to ram reauthorization down our throats by tying it to funding for the coronavirus response.”

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