Since being signed into law in November 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act has given the government the capability of spying on its citizens in a fashion that is far beyond constitutional, or even what its original author intended.
In 2013, we learned that the scale of these transgressions is even greater than we had known. One part of what we learned is that the NSA is recording the calling records of millions of innocent US citizens, and citing Section 215 of the act as its legal justification. It does this—and Congress continues to reauthorize the Patriot Act—despite the fact that it’s a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, and a superfluous-at-best tool for keeping the United States and its allies safe.
The NSA’s defenders argue that invading our privacy is the only way to keep us safe. But the White House itself, along with the President’s Review Board has said that the government can accomplish its goals without bulk telephone records collection. And the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said, “We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which [bulk collection under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act] made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.”
Since June of 2013, we’ve continued to learn more about how out of control the NSA is. But what has not happened since June is legislative reform of the NSA. There have been myriad bipartisan proposals in Congress—some authentic and some not—but lawmakers didn’t pass anything. We need comprehensive reform that addresses all the ways the NSA has overstepped its authority and provides the NSA with appropriate and constitutional tools to keep America safe.
The good news is that Section 215 expires in less than three months, which means that our goal in the period between now and June 1st must be to take whatever strides we can to stop Congress from reauthorizing it. We’ll keep you updated on our efforts and that of other organizations to do so, but in the meantime, here are two things you can contribute to the fight against Section 215:
Thank you for your help here. It is an important step in stopping Section 215 from being reauthorized, and eventually achieving the comprehensive reform that we so badly need.