Credo Action

Tell Congress: Protect our privacy and pass the USA Rights Act

Sign the petition

The petition to Congress reads:

"Protect our privacy from warrantless spying. Support Senate Bill 1997, the USA Rights Act, and close the backdoor search loophole in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

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    Tell Congress: Protect our privacy and pass the USA Rights Act

    Some politicians would have us believe that this week's horrific attack in New York is reason enough to roll back our constitutional rights. When an act of violence shatters our sense of safety, some are willing to give up anything to restore it.

    But those who would abandon our rights and civil liberties are throwing away our greatest strengths as a country. At a moment when we could allow fear to divide us, we must stand up for the rule of law and stand up against the Trump administration's abuses of power.

    Tell Congress: Support the USA Rights Act and stop warrantless spying on Americans.

    Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the government collects and stores hundreds of millions of communications sent and received by Americans – without a warrant or probable cause – yearly. But Section 702 is set to expire at the end of this year, and in the reauthorization process, lawmakers could make the law even worse – or much better. The USA Rights Act represents the best opportunity we have to reform Section 702 to protect our privacy.

    Section 702 gives federal intelligence agencies like the FBI and the National Security Agency (NSA) the authority to capture all kinds of online communications – phone calls, emails, social media accounts, text messages and more. Although the law is supposed to target only foreign individuals outside of the United States, agencies end up incidentally collecting vast stores of information on American citizens and residents.

    The NSA refuses to give an estimate of the number of U.S. citizens and residents whose emails and phone calls are swept up under the law.1 But a Washington Post review of 160,000 intercepted conversations provided by Edward Snowden found that nine out of 10 of those tracked by the NSA were not surveillance targets, and nearly 50 percent were U.S. residents.2

    Once the government has collected your data, it acts as if you are no longer protected by the Fourth Amendment. Even if you've never been suspected of a crime, federal agents can search and share your data collected under Section 702 without a warrant or probable cause. This is what's called the "backdoor search" loophole, and it needs to be closed – now.

    Tell Congress: Support the USA Rights Act and stop warrantless spying on Americans.

    Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden introduced the USA Rights Act, Senate Bill 1997, to do just that.3 The bill would limit the federal government's ability to acquire or access communications of U.S. residents and use the information as evidence in court. It would prohibit "reverse targeting," the practice of spying on foreign targets with the real motive of listening to the Americans communicating with them.

    The USA Rights Act already has 15 co-sponsors, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But senators and House representatives are under enormous pressure from federal spy agencies to cave and pass a different Section 702 reauthorization bill that would expand spying powers instead of restricting them.

    Now more than ever, our elected representatives need to hear from us that warrantless spying on Americans is unconstitutional and unacceptable.

    Tell Congress: Support the USA Rights Act and stop warrantless spying on Americans.

    References:

    1. Dustin Volz, “NSA backtracks on sharing number of Americans caught in warrant-less spying,” Reuters, June 12, 2017.
    2. Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani, “In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are,” The Washington Post, July 5, 2014.
    3. David Ruiz, "The USA Rights Act Protects Us From NSA Spying," Electronic Frontier Foundation, Oct. 24, 2017.
    4. Sen. Ron Wyden, The USA Rights Act," 115th Congress, Oct. 24, 2017.