We are urging Congress to pass the Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act of 2020 (SAPRA), bipartisan legislation that includes significant reforms to the government’s foreign intelligence surveillance authorities, including Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which was at the heart of Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA bulk collection of phone records.
SAPRA would put much needed limits on the government’s expansive foreign intelligence surveillance powers, making it an important step in reining in the broad, unconstitutional spying powers granted claimed by the government..
Congress must take this opportunity to enact the substantial reforms this bill calls for, including:
But the bill goes much further, including essential reporting requirements, reforming the FISA court, imposing warrant requirements on all section 215 searches if they would be required in the criminal context, and strengthening the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
Undoubtedly, the surveillance hawks will soon introduce a much weaker bill, or will attempt to re-authorize Section 215 without any reforms at all.
We need you to take action now to make sure we get these essential reforms to our out-of-control surveillance state!
The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act was introduced on January 23 by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) as S. 3242 and in the House by Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), among others, as H.R. 5675.
45 civil society organizations - including Defending Rights & Dissent - are on record supporting this bill. Read our letter here.
Here's some background on how we got here:
The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 provided intelligence agencies with overly broad powers to engage in surveillance. In addition, these agencies have been repeatedly caught unlawfully surveilling innocent people in the United States at a staggering scale. In 2015, Congress enacted the USA FREEDOM Act in an effort to rein in the government’s surveillance practices. This included replacing the bulk phone records program that the National Security Agency (NSA) had operated illegally for many years.
Specifically, the USA FREEDOM Act added new subsections to Section 215 — which has for many years allowed the government to collect business records (such as financial records) — to create a new authority permitting the collection of Call Detail Records (CDRs). This Section 215 CDR program is narrower than the former bulk program, but still permits overly broad and privacy-invasive collection of phone records. Among other concerns, the replacement program still permits surveillance to span “two hops” from the intended target, implicating millions of people who were never even suspected of wrongdoing. In 2018, under this current Section 215 CDR program, the government still collected over 434 million records relating to over 19 million phone identifiers, despite having only 11 targets.
The government recently shuttered the CDR program due to admittedly unlawful over-collection of records, however its statutory authority remains in place. Like its predecessors, the Section 215 CDR program was never shown to offer meaningful intelligence value and was repeatedly misused. SAPRA would eliminate this dangerous authority for good.
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