This morning, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included a reauthorization of FISA Section 702 surveillance powers without a certification cap. FISA Section 702 is the program the FBI has abused relentlessly on a “persistent and widespread” basis to conduct warrantless surveillance. Many have fallen victim to the FBI’s backdoor searches of the 702 databases; thousands of protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, 19,000 donors to a congressional campaign, journalists, members of Congress, a state court judge, crime victims, and U.S. persons were targeted solely for their race or ethnicity. The NSA is not innocent either: its agents have abused 702 data to find information on potential dating prospects and tenants.
Restore the Fourth, along with our coalition partners from across the political spectrum, put up a valiant fight. We launched campaigns, held discussions and information sessions, and communicated regularly with Congressional offices to defeat this NDAA extension. We applaud the 35 Senators and 118 Representatives that voted to protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment civil liberties. For those that voted in favor of extending FISA 702, we are dismayed and disappointed that members of Congress would so brazenly ignore evidence of FBI abuses. These Congress members also ignored the will of the American people – according to polling from YouGov of Americans from across the country about their perspective on government surveillance, 78% support increased protections from government surveillance. The House Judiciary Committee (HJC) voted 35-2 in support of the Protect Liberty and End Warrantless Surveillance Act (PLEWSA), a bipartisan bill with major reforms to Section 702 that would protect Americans’ privacy. An even more comprehensive reform bill, the Government Surveillance Reform Act (GSRA), has 19 cosponsors in the House and 10 in the Senate across the political spectrum.
In response to the NDAA’s passage, Restore the Fourth’s National Chair Alex Marthews issues the following statement: “We’re grateful to the lawmakers who stood up for Americans’ privacy in this vote. Given the risk that the short-term extension will become a long one, Congress must make it its highest priority to pass a great surveillance reform bill in the New Year.” A temporary extension of FISA 702 makes room for a sixteen-month extension. The government currently conducts Section 702 surveillance under an annual FISC certification that expires in April 2024. Under Section 404 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, this certification remains valid until expiration, regardless of FISA authorization. Government officials have acknowledged this, and thus we made it clear to Congressional leaders that any temporary extension in the NDAA needs language capping new FISC certifications in 2024 to prevent new, year-long certifications. The passage of the NDAA has jeopardized every American’s right to privacy. However, Restore the Fourth and our coalition press on because the fight is not over. The status-quo will not continue – we will restore the fourth.
See the full roll call here: https://clerk.house.gov/Votes/2023723