Congress has failed to enact even the most basic reforms to ineffective and invasive mass government surveillance programs authorized under FISA. They should let them sunset and never bring them back.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on legislation that would reauthorize several domestic surveillance authorities including Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT ACT. They may also vote on an amendment offered by Representatives Lofgren and Davidson that claims to prevent mass surveillance of US internet activity, but in fact fails to do so thanks to a major loophole added by Rep Adam Schiff at the last minute. House reps should vote no on both the underlying USA Freedom Reauthorization Act, and –– unless it is improved –– the watered down Lofgren/Davidson amendment, which essentially throws immigrant communities under the bus and could potentially be used to conduct dragnet surveillance of all people who have watched a specific YouTube video or visited a specific website.
Digital rights group Fight for the Future, who have long opposed the reauthorization of the Patriot Act and related surveillance authorities, issued the following statement, which can be attributed to Deputy Director Evan Greer (she/her):
Mass government surveillance is fundamentally incompatible with democracy and basic human rights. It shouldn’t matter where you’re from. Everyone should have the basic right to due process and to be free from unreasonable and warrantless government intrusion into their private lives.
House Democrats had an opportunity to enact meaningful protections that would have kept people safe. Instead they let Rep Adam Schiff throw it all away at the last minute. Frankly, Schiff may be the biggest hypocrite in Congress. He constantly talks about how the Trump administration is dangerous and authoritarian. And he’s right. But time and time again he has done everything in his power to ensure that the Trump administration has essentially limitless domestic surveillance authority that can be weaponized to target immigrants, activists, journalists, and religious minorities. Speaker Pelosi shouldn’t let Adam Schiff near national security legislation ever again. His disgraceful actions just handed a win to Trump and McConnell for absolutely no reason other than that he just seems to truly love government spying, despite there being almost no evidence that these programs have ever saved a single human life.
Enough is enough. Congress should let these FISA surveillance authorities die. And they should never bring them back."
Fight for the Future and a broad coalition of civil society groups from across the political spectrum have been working tirelessly to oppose the reauthorization of mass government surveillance programs. The group has driven tens of thousands of phone calls and emails to lawmakers in recent weeks, hosted a popular reddit AMA, a series of livestreams on MTV News, and a day of action at SaveInternetPrivacy.org.