ACLU Comment on Senate Advancement of Surveillance Bill

January 16, 2018 8:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — The Senate voted today to advance S. 139 (FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017), a bill that risks expanding and codifying unconstitutional spying powers under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Thirty-eight members voted against the motion to advance this bill, falling just two votes short of what was needed to defeat it. A vote on final passage is expected later this week.

Section 702 is used to spy on the emails, text messages, and other electronic communications of Americans and foreigners without a warrant. The authority has been repeatedly abused by law enforcement to spy on the electronic communications of Americans and foreigners without a warrant, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Congress failed to advance bipartisan efforts, supported by the ACLU, that would have better safeguarded privacy.

Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said:

“Members of both parties who voted in favor of this legislation should be sharply rebuked for supporting a bill that is in flagrant violation of the rights enshrined in the Constitution. Senators ignored the will of the people to give the president exceedingly broad powers to spy on Americans and individuals around the world. Despite the ample evidence that these authorities have been abused, the bill fails to meaningfully restrict the government’s ability to unlawfully sift through the private emails, messages, and other digital communications of individuals without probable cause or approval from a judge.

“Instead of instituting much needed reforms and safeguards, Senators supported legislation that would give spying powers to an administration that has time and time again demonstrated its disregard for civil rights and civil liberties. They did so without even devoting one minute to considering improvement to protect privacy rights. The ACLU will continue to work both in Congress and the courts to stop abuse of this authority.”

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