ACLU, Coalition Won’t Support Current Version of House Surveillance Bill

Over 40 Groups Say Bill Leaves Open Too Many Loopholes, Leaving Americans Vulnerable to Warrantless Spying

October 13, 2017 4:45 pm

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WASHINGTON — A broad coalition including the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation sent a letter to the leaders of House Judiciary Committee today saying that the groups cannot support the current version of a surveillance reform bill introduced last week.

The bill, called the USA Liberty Act, would make changes to and extend the government’s spying powers under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is set to expire at the end of the year. The government uses Section 702 to spy on the emails, text messages, and phone calls of Americans who are communicating with people overseas.

The letter, signed by over 40 groups, urges the committee to strengthen the bill, which fails to completely address concerns with the so-called “backdoor search loophole.”

“This bill doesn’t do enough to protect Americans’ privacy and it must be improved,” said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel with the ACLU. “As written, the bill still allows the government to read emails, text messages, and other communications of Americans without a probable cause warrant or even a shred of evidence suggesting that the person has information necessary to protect against an imminent threat. This glaring loophole fails to address concerns by the public that Section 702 could be used to improperly surveil journalists, government critics, activists, and other private citizens.”

The bill was introduced by members of the House Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.). It would require the government to obtain a warrant before viewing content collected under Section 702 in certain criminal contexts, but continues to allow access to this information for broad “foreign intelligence” purposes without a warrant.

The following organizations signed on to today’s letter:
Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
American Association of Law Libraries
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
Brennan Center for Justice
Center for Democracy & Technology
The Center for HIV Law and Policy
Center for Media Justice
The Center for Security, Race and Rights, Rutgers Law School
Color Of Change
Constitutional Alliance
The Constitution Project
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Action
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Equality California
Fight for the Future
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Free Press Action Fund
Free the People
Freedom of the Press Foundation
Government Accountability Project
Government Information Watch
Japanese American Citizens League
Liberty Coalition
Media Alliance
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Council of Churches
National Immigration Law Center
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
New America’s Open Technology Institute
Oakland Privacy
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
PEN America
Reformed Church of Highland Park
Restore The Fourth
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Wikimedia Foundation
Yemen Peace Project

The letter is online here:

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