Congress just passed S. 139, extending Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) with no warrant requirements for the NSA, FBI, and *all* U.S. presidents to spy on Americans.
Proponents of Section 702 claim it’s only intended to target the online communications of foreigners. But it actually allows the government to collect, track, and monitor all of the online communications of all Americans.
A bipartisan group of privacy-minded lawmakers presented a substitute amendment to S. 139 that would have ended the warrantless surveillance of U.S. persons. But, as has been widely reported, 55 Democrats followed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s lead and joined with the GOP majority to vote it down. Had just 26 Democrats supported it, the amendment would have passed and we could be celebrating the passage of meaningful FISA privacy reform.
In the Senate, 7 Republicans broke party rank and voted against S. 139 but the bill passed (65-34) when 21 Senate Democrats voted with GOP leadership to expand warrantless government spying powers.
At a time when people are focused on abusive power and federal misconduct, members of Congress should be ashamed to extend the government's authority to collect information on, and then target, Americans, all without a warrant. Despite constitutional privacy protections and international human rights standards, the U.S. government surveils millions of people and stores their communications data in massive databases. Law enforcement agencies like the FBI can then search this data without needing probable cause or a court-ordered warrant (what’s known as a “backdoor search”).
Those who voted to extend warrantless surveillance in the U.S. by supporting S. 139 failed to safeguard our rights and freedoms when we need them to the most, and do not belong in Congress.
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We are a nonpartisan coalition of civil rights advocacy groups and Internet users. Congressmembers hope they can sneak get away with this vote. We won't let them.
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FISA was originally passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks to allow the military to spy on the communications of foreign terrorists. Since then, whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Judicial Watch have revealed that the executive branch has abused FISA with numerous exceptions, carve-outs, and "creative interpretations," allowing agencies like the FBI, NSA, and the president to spy on Americans without a warrant.
Ironically, the 2018 FISA reauthorization vote hinged on Democratic lawmakers. After more than a year of relentlessly calling Donald Trump a fascist, an authoritarian, and even comparing him to Adolph Hitler, Democrats voted to give Trump six more years of unrestricted mass surveillance authority. Meanwhile, Republicans have alleged that President Obama abused FISA to improperly spy on the Trump campaign with no civilian oversight. Democrat or Republican, no president—or government—should have the power to mass surveil its own citizens.
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