Categories: Surveillance

Congress has only days left to reform surveillance law

UPDATE: The House passed the USA FREEDOM Act today 338-88. The following statement can be attributed to Mozilla Head of Public Policy Chris Riley:

“Mozilla is pleased to see the House vote overwhelmingly today to pass the USA FREEDOM Act. This legislation significantly curtails bulk collection under the Patriot Act and other authorities, and puts us on a path to a more private and secure Internet.

We urge the Senate to swiftly follow suit and vote to pass the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act. We are staunchly opposed to any short- or long-term reauthorization of these sections of the Patriot Act absent meaningful reforms. Now is not the time to delay on these much needed reforms.”

Original post:

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the USA FREEDOM Act, a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation that would significantly reform surveillance activities conducted under the USA PATRIOT Act.

Mozilla supports this legislation, which passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 25-2 vote. This version of USA FREEDOM Act would:

  • curtail bulk collection activities under Section 215 as well as Pen Register/Trap and Trace and National Security Letter authorities;
  • bring increased transparency to surveillance activities, including through the declassification of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions and new reporting requirements on the government;
  • allow companies to report the scope and scale of national security demands in smaller ranges (bands of 500 as opposed to 1,000) than is allowed today;
  • enable outside attorneys to participate in FISC cases involving novel interpretations of law, providing an important check on the government; and
  • not require any data retention mandates.

While we believe many more surveillance reforms are needed, this legislation would be a significant step forward to enhancing user privacy and security. Indeed, the 2nd Circuit ruled last week that the government’s mass surveillance of call detail records — information about who you called, when you called, for how long you spoke, an incredibly detailed map of your private life — under Section 215 is illegal. Congress must act now to reform these surveillance authorities.

Despite the 2nd Circuit ruling and significant grassroots pressure (including from the Mozilla community), some senators are pushing for a reauthorization of these illegal surveillance activities without any reforms. Any delay in passing the USA FREEDOM Act is likely to lead to weakened reforms, so we urge Members of Congress to reject even a short term reauthorization of Section 215 and the two other PATRIOT Act statutes which are set to expire at the end of the month.

We hope the House will overwhelmingly approve the USA FREEDOM Act this week, reflecting the significant and diverse support for this legislation, and we hope that the Senate will swiftly follow suit in passing the bill without harmful amendments.