Fight for the Future


Justin Amash on USA Freedom: “H.R. 2048 actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data“

Posted 18:50 EDT on May 13, 2015

Earlier today, before USA Freedom went up for a vote on the House floor, Rep. Justin Amash posted this on his Facebook page. USA Freedom has passed the House, reauthorizing key mass surveillance sections of the PATRIOT Act until 2019. As I post his words in full, it feels like posting words that will help to build the anti-surveillance movement and live on into the future for their truth and righteousness.  Those who voted for mass surveillance will be proven wrong. 

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the bulk telephone metadata program run by the National Security Agency (NSA) is not authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act and is thus unlawful. The ruling is a big win for privacy and civil liberties advocates who have long argued that Section 215 clearly does not contemplate the type of mass collection we now know is occurring. But the win will be short-lived if H.R. 2048, the latest version of the USA FREEDOM Act that’s scheduled to be considered by the House of Representatives this afternoon, becomes law.

Section 215 authorizes the government to collect records and other “tangible things” that are “relevant” to a terrorism or foreign intelligence investigation. To support the bulk collection of data pertaining to millions of law-abiding Americans, the government has effectively claimed that all records everywhere are potentially relevant to a current or future investigation, and thus all records are fair game for collection. In its ruling, the Second Circuit had little choice but to reject the government’s broad interpretation of “relevant,” given that the rest of the statute gives no indication Congress ever contemplated collection on such a mass scale.

So far, so good.

But H.R. 2048 threatens to undo much of the progress resulting from the Second Circuit’s opinion. The bill’s sponsors, and unfortunately some outside advocacy groups, wrongly claim that H.R. 2048 ends “bulk” collection. It’s true that the bill ends the phone dragnet as we currently know it—by having the phone companies themselves hold, search, and analyze certain data at the request of the government, which is worse in many ways given the broader set of data the companies hold—but H.R. 2048 actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data.

H.R. 2048 does this by authorizing the government to order the production of records based upon a “specific selection term” (i.e., like a search term used in a search engine). The records sought still must be relevant to an investigation, so it’s possible the court’s ruling will continue to restrain the government in some fashion. But it’s more likely a court looking at H.R. 2048’s language will see the “specific selection term” as defining the outer limits of what Congress considers acceptably “relevant” under Section 215.

Indeed, the Second Circuit encouraged Congress in reforming Section 215 to make a “congressional judgment as to what is ‘reasonable’ under current circumstances.” Unfortunately, “specific selection term” is defined so broadly under the bill as to have little effect on narrowing the scope of items the government may obtain through a 215 order.

A “specific selection term” may be a specific person (including a corporation, such as Western Union), account, address, or personal device, but it also may be “any other specific identifier,” and the bill expressly contemplates using geographic regions or communication service providers (such as Verizon) to define the records sought, so long as it’s not the only identifier used as part of the specific selection term. In other words, the bill doesn’t let the government require Verizon to turn over all its records without limitation, but nothing appears to prevent the government from requiring Verizon to turn over all its records for all its customers in the state of New York. Only a politician or bureaucrat wouldn’t call that “bulk.”

H.R. 2048 gives our intelligence agencies, for the first time, statutory authority to collect Americans’ data in bulk. In light of the Second Circuit’s opinion that the NSA has been collecting our information in bulk without statutory authority for all this time, it would be a devastating misstep for Congress to pass a bill that codifies that bulk collection and likely ensures no future court will ever again be positioned to rule against the government for over-collecting on statutory grounds.

H.R. 2048 falls woefully short of reining in the mass collection of Americans’ data, and it takes us a step in the wrong direction by specifically authorizing such collection in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Americans, and members of Congress, should demand that Congress instead pass the original, bipartisan version of the USA FREEDOM Act from 2013, which strengthened—not weakened—Section 215’s relevance standard to end bulk collection, while still allowing the government the flexibility it needs to pursue genuine threats against the United States.

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Awesome statement from Rep Justin Amash about why the USA Freedom Act doesn’t end bulk NSA collection

Posted 18:49 EDT on May 13, 2015

We’re not in the habit of copying and pasting statements from politicians, but this one is pretty bad-ass and breaks down an important and complex issue.

The statement below is copied from Rep Justin Amash’s Facebook page. 

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the bulk telephone metadata program run by the National Security Agency (NSA) is not authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act and is thus unlawful. The ruling is a big win for privacy and civil liberties advocates who have long argued that Section 215 clearly does not contemplate the type of mass collection we now know is occurring. But the win will be short-lived if H.R. 2048, the latest version of the USA FREEDOM Act that’s scheduled to be considered by the House of Representatives this afternoon, becomes law.

Section 215 authorizes the government to collect records and other “tangible things” that are “relevant” to a terrorism or foreign intelligence investigation. To support the bulk collection of data pertaining to millions of law-abiding Americans, the government has effectively claimed that all records everywhere are potentially relevant to a current or future investigation, and thus all records are fair game for collection. In its ruling, the Second Circuit had little choice but to reject the government’s broad interpretation of “relevant,” given that the rest of the statute gives no indication Congress ever contemplated collection on such a mass scale.

So far, so good.

But H.R. 2048 threatens to undo much of the progress resulting from the Second Circuit’s opinion. The bill’s sponsors, and unfortunately some outside advocacy groups, wrongly claim that H.R. 2048 ends “bulk” collection. It’s true that the bill ends the phone dragnet as we currently know it—by having the phone companies themselves hold, search, and analyze certain data at the request of the government, which is worse in many ways given the broader set of data the companies hold—but H.R. 2048 actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data.

H.R. 2048 does this by authorizing the government to order the production of records based upon a “specific selection term” (i.e., like a search term used in a search engine). The records sought still must be relevant to an investigation, so it’s possible the court’s ruling will continue to restrain the government in some fashion. But it’s more likely a court looking at H.R. 2048’s language will see the “specific selection term” as defining the outer limits of what Congress considers acceptably “relevant” under Section 215.

Indeed, the Second Circuit encouraged Congress in reforming Section 215 to make a “congressional judgment as to what is ‘reasonable’ under current circumstances.” Unfortunately, “specific selection term” is defined so broadly under the bill as to have little effect on narrowing the scope of items the government may obtain through a 215 order.

A “specific selection term” may be a specific person (including a corporation, such as Western Union), account, address, or personal device, but it also may be “any other specific identifier,” and the bill expressly contemplates using geographic regions or communication service providers (such as Verizon) to define the records sought, so long as it’s not the only identifier used as part of the specific selection term. In other words, the bill doesn’t let the government require Verizon to turn over all its records without limitation, but nothing appears to prevent the government from requiring Verizon to turn over all its records for all its customers in the state of New York. Only a politician or bureaucrat wouldn’t call that “bulk.”

H.R. 2048 gives our intelligence agencies, for the first time, statutory authority to collect Americans’ data in bulk. In light of the Second Circuit’s opinion that the NSA has been collecting our information in bulk without statutory authority for all this time, it would be a devastating misstep for Congress to pass a bill that codifies that bulk collection and likely ensures no future court will ever again be positioned to rule against the government for over-collecting on statutory grounds.

H.R. 2048 falls woefully short of reining in the mass collection of Americans’ data, and it takes us a step in the wrong direction by specifically authorizing such collection in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Americans, and members of Congress, should demand that Congress instead pass the original, bipartisan version of the USA FREEDOM Act from 2013, which strengthened—not weakened—Section 215’s relevance standard to end bulk collection, while still allowing the government the flexibility it needs to pursue genuine threats against the United States.

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Privacy groups reject USA Freedom Act as “fake reform.” Hundreds of thousands of people call on Congress to sunset the PATRIOT Act on June 1st.

Posted 17:44 EDT on May 13, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2015

Media Contact: Evan Greer, 978-852-6457
Email: press@fightforthefuture.org

WASHINGTON––This afternoon the U.S. House of Representatives passed the USA Freedom Act, a bill that reauthorizes section 215 of the PATRIOT Act until 2019 and allows the government to continue their mass surveillance of phone call data.

Fight for the Future has opposed the USA Freedom Act and, working with a coalition of other privacy groups, helped to drive tens of thousands of calls and hundreds of thousands of emails to Congress calling for real NSA reform and an end to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. The group also created a website (www.usafreedom.fail) that explains in eight bullet points why the bill increases mass surveillance, which flew to the top of reddit shortly after it was launched.

The passage of the bill comes less than a week after the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 2nd District ruled unanimously that the government’s bulk collection of call data under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is illegal. The House’s action today are a step towards overriding the court decision and legitimizing the NSA’s expansive and illogical interpretation of the law.

Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, issued the following statement:

“Congress has an opportunity to reform mass surveillance by letting the PATRIOT Act expire, and that’s what they should do. Their vote today to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act with even broader terms that expand the scope of surveillance, is the opposite of reform. It makes absolutely no sense.”

There is literally no reason for the NSA to be surveilling everyone and their mom in order to go after their targets. Why they aren’t satisfied with the US Constitutional limits on search and seizure and getting a warrant to do so is very suspicious. That’s just rogue and illegal behavior and part of selling a culture of fear. We’re demanding to see them build a case to surveil my mom and millions of Internet users around the world before they get one more peek at our private lives.“

Congress is trying to sell the USA Freedom Act to the American people as reform, but what the bill actually does is extend and expand the government’s power to monitor our communications under the PATRIOT Act. Far from reform, the bill will allow the government to invade even more of our private moments than ever by updating their surveillance powers for the devices and communications platforms we use most often these days.”

This is a fake privacy bill. Corrupt members of Congress and their funders in the defense industry are attempting to package up their surveillance-powers wishlist and misleadingly brand it as ‘USA Freedom.’ This is disappointing and offensive, and we will continue to work to kill this bill and any other attempt to legitimize unconstitutional surveillance systems.”

Fight for the Future favors allowing Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act expire on June 1, 2015, as is currently scheduled under the law. The provision allows the government to secretly force anyone to turn over “any tangible things” that they deem to be relevant to an authorized investigation, as determined by the secretive, rubber-stamp FISA court. It is fundamentally flawed authority and a direct violation to the U.S. Constitution’s restriction on unreasonable search and seizure.

Fight for the Future also opposed last year’s version of the USA Freedom Act, calling for more meaningful reforms.

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“Fast Track” legislation fails Senate test after digital rights groups and tech companies drive thousands of phone calls and emails to Congress

Posted 12:09 EDT on May 13, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2015

Media contact: Evan Greer, 978-852-6457
Email: press@fightforthefuture.org

WASHINGTON, DC –– Yesterday, the Senate voted against advancing Trade Promotion Authority legislation, more commonly known as “Fast Track.” Fight for the Future, a digital rights group that has been rallying websites and Internet users to oppose Fast Track and has driven tens of thousands of contacts to Congress in recent weeks, released the following statement, which can be attributed to campaign director Evan Greer:

“The writing is on the wall, the only question left is whether our lawmakers can read it. It’s obvious that people from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly oppose secretive trade negotiations, “Fast Track” legislation, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A few months ago, Fast Track looked inevitable. But as people across the country learned that government bureaucrats and corporate lobbyists were trying to legislate through backroom deals with virtually no public oversight, they stood up in massive numbers. When it became clear that Fast Track and the TPP would be detrimental to Internet freedom, thousands of websites and tech companies joined the fight as well.

People, advocacy groups, and startups are uniting against Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership because policies that could lead to decreased online privacy, stifled innovation, and global Internet censorship affect everyone. This isn’t a battle between “liberals” and the Obama administration. It’s a battle between the overwhelming majority of people and small businesses that stand to lose if this deal goes through, and a few select industries that have been spending millions lobbying to protect their own power at the expense of everyone’s basic rights.”

Fight for the Future, a group that was founded in the lead up to the fight against SOPA, has been one of the most active online groups opposing Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They were lead organizers of the Internet Vote, which has generated more than 6,500 phone calls and 75,000 emails to Congress, and gathered the support of more than 7,500 websites and tech companies. They also built the StopFastTrack.com coalition site, which has garnered the support of more than 100 organizations working on a wide range of issues.

Last month, Fight for the Future made national headlines when they followed Senator Ron Wyden around his home state of Oregon with a 30’ blimp as part of ongoing protests against Fast Tracking the TPP. They also parked a JUMBOTRON on Capitol Hill as part of an anti-Fast Track film fest. Last year, the group delivered a letter to Senator Ron Wyden signed by more than 25 companies including reddit and imgur opposing Fast Track legislation.

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Leading Internet freedom group calls for Senate to oppose Fast Track

Posted 17:03 EDT on May 12, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2015

Media contact: Evan Greer, 978-852-6457
Email: press@fightforthefuture.org

WASHINGTON, DC –– Today the Senate will vote on whether or not to advance Trade Promotion Authority legislation, more commonly known as “Fast Track.” Fight for the Future, a digital rights group that has been rallying websites and Internet users to oppose Fast Track, released the following statement, which can be attributed to campaign director Evan Greer:

Today, every United States Senator has a decision to make: will they stand with the overwhelming majority of their constituents who oppose the dangerous secrecy inherent in the Fast Track / Trade Promotion Authority process, or will they bow down to the White House and the incumbent industries who have been spending millions lobbying to protect their power?

Many media outlets frame this as a fight between “liberals” and the Obama administration, which couldn’t be further from the truth. People from across the political spectrum oppose both Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, due to extreme copyright and Internet policy provisions that could lead to decreased online privacy, stifled innovation, and global Internet censorship.

Millions of Internet users and thousands of websites, startups, and tech companies have spoken out. Today, we find out who the Senate is listening to. If they value democracy and the future of the Internet, they will oppose advancing Fast Track / Trade Promotion Authority legislation, and demand that the public have access to agreements negotiated in their name.

Fight for the Future, a group that was founded in the lead up to the fight against SOPA, has been one of the most active online groups opposing Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They were lead organizers of the Internet Vote, which has generated more than 6,500 phone calls and 73,000 emails to Congress, and gathered the support of more than 7,500 websites and tech companies. They also built the StopFastTrack.com coalition site, which has garnered the support of more than 100 organizations working on a wide range of issues.

Last month, Fight for the Future made national headlines when they followed Senator Ron Wyden around his home state of Oregon with a 30’ blimp as part of ongoing protests against Fast Tracking the TPP. They also parked a JUMBOTRON on Capitol Hill as part of an anti-Fast Track film fest.

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