Ahead of House Vote, ACLU Sounds Alarm on Bill Greatly Expanding the Government’s Mass Warrantless Surveillance Authority

December 11, 2023 5:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union is strongly urging the House of Representatives to vote for the Protect Liberty and End Warrantless Surveillance Act, the House Judiciary Committee’s bill reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). At the same time, the ACLU is warning that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s (HPSCI) FISA Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2023 does not represent reform and would greatly expand the government’s ability to spy on Americans without a warrant.

Under “Queen of the Hill” rules, the House of Representatives will vote on both bills on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, and whichever gets the most votes passes.

“We urge all members of Congress to vote in favor of the Protect Liberty and End Warrantless Surveillance Act and to reject the fake reform bill put up by the House Intelligence Committee,” said Kia Hamadanchy, senior federal policy counsel at ACLU. “After 15 years of warrantless surveillance and unchecked abuse under Section 702, this pivotal legislation would result in genuine reforms that protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. Congress must take this chance to rein in the surveillance state, not expand it.”

Section 702 was designed to allow the government to warrantlessly surveil non-U.S. citizens abroad for foreign intelligence purposes. In recent years, however, it has morphed into a domestic surveillance tool, with FBI agents using the Section 702 databases to conduct millions of invasive searches for Americans’ communications — including those of protesters, racial justice activists, 19,000 donors to a congressional campaign, journalists, and even members of Congress.

HPSCI’s bill would be the largest expansion of domestic government surveillance since the Patriot Act, empowering the government to compel an enormous range of U.S. businesses to aid in surveillance — everyone from owners of server farms to hotel proprietors. The bill also includes special protections and notice provisions for members of Congress only, leaving all other Americans without the same privacy and due process safeguards.

The House Judiciary’s legislation would fundamentally reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by banning warrantless backdoor searches of Section 702 databases for Americans’ communications, and prohibiting law enforcement from circumventing core constitutional protections by purchasing Americans’ data that they would otherwise need a warrant to obtain.

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