WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bipartisan coalition of groups, including Demand Progress, ACLU, FreedomWorks, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Defending Rights & Dissent, delivered over 100,000 petition signatures today calling on Congress to overhaul Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act or, absent such reform, let it sunset.
Section 702 has been interpreted by the government to allow warrantless surveillance of international communications entering or leaving the United States, including Americans’ international phone calls, text messages, emails, social media content, and more. Section 702 gained notoriety in 2013 with the widespread publicity of two surveillance programs the government claims are authorized by the law, PRISM and Upstream, which collect information on millions of people, including Americans, without a warrant.
Without Congressional reauthorization by December 31st of this year, Section 702 will expire. Privacy and internet advocates gathered over 100,000 petition signatures from constituents calling on Congress to overhaul Section 702 to prevent invasive and warrantless government surveillance of Americans, or, absent such an overhaul, let Section 702 sunset.
“The American people do not want the government searching through their personal data, and they are making their voices heard,” said Sean Vitka, policy counsel at Demand Progress. “The electronic surveillance programs under Section 702 remain gross overreaches of the federal government into the privacy of American citizens. Section 702 is in desperate need of reform, for instance to stop warrantless backdoor searches of Americans’ information. If Congress cannot deliver an overhaul of Section 702, Members of Congress should let this disturbing provision of law expire.”
“Americans from across the political spectrum have lost confidence in our intelligence agencies. Over three-quarters of Americans in a recent poll said that they believe that existing laws are not strong enough to ensure that the NSA respects Americans’ privacy,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel. “It is past time for Congress to pass a bipartisan reform bill to ensure that the NSA is not permitted to collect sensitive information of people who pose no threat to our country and to require the government to obtain a probable cause warrant before accessing Americans’ information.”
“The NSA’s surveillance of the Internet is an affront to the values of a democratic society. Across the country, Americans from all walks of life are speaking out,” said Rainey Reitman, Activism Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“Americans don’t want their online communications swept up by the NSA’s dragnet, and they are further outraged that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are combing through NSA data in search of information about Americans who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security. It has to end. It’s time radically reform 702 or let it sunset,” said Sue Udry, Executive Director of Defending Rights & Dissent.
“Many in Congress often speak about finding ‘the balance between security and privacy.’ Surveilling innocent Americans fundamentally fails to strike such a balance. Now is the time for those who believe in limited government to step up and defend the Fourth Amendment,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs for FreedomWorks. “This is an issue that transcends ideological boundaries. Grassroots activists from both the right and the left believe that Congress must enact strong reforms to protect their civil liberties.”
Today, this coalition presented 101,909 petition signatures to:
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.);
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.);
Representatives Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Trey Gowdy (R-Texas), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.); and
Representatives Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who are co-chairs of the Fourth Amendment Caucus.