Today, the House of Representatives passed the so-called “USA Freedom Act,” a bill that would preserve mass surveillance in the face of an impending deadline when several provisions of the notorious USA PATRIOT Act are set to expire.
BORDC/DDF opposes the USA Freedom Act because it extends the reauthorization deadline without curtailing each of the several legal bases asserted by the intelligence agencies as justifications for unconstitutional mass domestic spying. At root, the congressional debate over domestic spying has yet to grapple with the underlying facts, which remain hidden behind a veil of secrecy that Congress has been unwilling to investigate, buttressed by lies under oath by executive officials.
Until the intelligence committees — which have become captured by the agencies they are charged to oversee — complete the exhaustive investigations that they have thus far failed to attempt, Congress has no business extending any domestic spying powers.
In addition to grave shortcomings on surveillance reform, BORDC/DDF is concerned about a little-noticed provision of the bill, Section 702, which increases the maximum sentence for material support of terrorism from 15 to 20 years. Material support of terrorism is a vague charge that encompasses activity historicallyprotected by the First Amendment, such as academic translation. Convictions under the law require no proof that the defendant engaged in terrorism, aided or abetted terrorism, or intended or conspired to commit terrorism. But what makes the law attractive to prosecutors – its sweeping ambit – is precisely what makes it so dangerous to civil liberties. This provision has no place in a bill that purports to reform surveillance authorities. BORDC/DDF urges the Senate to reject the USA Freedom Act, and for Congress to instead enact the only proposed form that would actually end bulk collection: the bipartisan Surveillance State Repeal Act, HR 1466.