Congress must end unconstitutional government spying.
In the wake of the traumatic attacks on 9/11, Congress rushed to pass the PATRIOT Act, which greatly expanded the ability of the U.S. government to spy on American citizens.
Since then, credulous and cowardly politicians have insisted that strict oversight from Congress and the judiciary would minimize violations of our civil liberties and ensure only legitimate terrorism suspects and foreign agents were targeted. But we now know that government spying on innocent Americans occurs with astounding frequency and on a breathtaking scale. After the leaks by Edward Snowden, even the original author of the PATRIOT Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, has said that the authority claimed by the government to spy on Americans far exceeds the intent of the law.
Representatives Mark Pocan and Thomas Massie just introduced the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which would to repeal the PATRIOT Act and restore our constitutionally protected civil liberties.
Sign the petition: Tell Congress to join Reps. Pocan and Massie and support the Surveillance State Repeal Act.
When the PATRIOT Act first passed, some of its most controversial provisions were only authorized for a number of years. The sun-setting of these provisions was nominally supposed to ensure that we would have a robust debate before they were reauthorized.
But Congress has allowed itself to be railroaded into rubberstamping reauthorization of the law multiple times. In fact, in 2008 Congress even passed a new law that retroactively immunized telephone companies that were illegally colluding with the government’s warrantless spying on innocent Americans. Now, with a fight looming this spring over the June’s deadline for reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act once again, it’s time for members of Congress to show their constituents where they stand.
Sign the petition: Tell Congress to repeal the PATRIOT Act, not rubberstamp its reauthorization.
Repealing the PATRIOT Act will be an uphill fight. But Congress won’t restore our civil liberties unless we ask for what we really want. Edward Snowden's most important revelation is that the American intelligence community systematically breaks the law and ignores even the minimal checks on its power that have been written into law. And the consequences are breathtaking.
As Representative Pocan explained in a recent letter to his colleagues in Congress:
"According to press reports, all Americans are subject to the collection of phone call metadata, the harvesting of To, From and Bcc data, the blanket targeting of encrypted emails or encrypted “cloud storage” data repositories, and the targeting of anyone using Tor (an online anonymization capability). And this includes the communications of constituents with Members of Congress. We have also learned that for years the NSA has been pressuring software and hardware manufacturers to deliberately weaken commercial encryption technology in order to facilitate NSA’s surveillance operations. In doing so, NSA has made us all more vulnerable to hacking by criminals, and made it easier for foreign intelligence services to exploit these built-in encryption vulnerabilities."
Even before the Snowden leaks, Senator Ron Wyden warned that "there are two Patriot Acts" – the plain text of the law that the public can read and the executive branch's secret interpretation authorizing mass surveillance – and that members of Congress and the public would be shocked when they learned the truth.
Repealing the PATRIOT Act will be an uphill fight. But Congress won’t restore our civil liberties unless we ask for what we really want.
For far too long, “national security” has been both a way for the government to override civil liberties objections and a way to squelch debate.
But we must recognize that the surveillance apparatus created by the merging of our spy agencies with private communications telecommunications and Internet companies is potentially so broad and indiscriminate that it tramples not only our privacy, but endangers our citizens' right to free speech and association guaranteed by the Constitution.
And the sad fact is that there is scant evidence that this wholesale intrusion into our privacy has done anything to make us safer. The bill would also send a clear message to the intelligence community that Congress is reasserting its role in overseeing secret intelligence and protecting our civil liberties.
We call members of Congress to go on the record and tell us where stand on repealing the PATRIOT Act and reining in unconstitutional government spying. The Surveillance State Repeal Act gives us the opportunity to make them do just that.
I hope you'll join me in urging Congress to support Rep. Pocan's and Rep. Massie’s Surveillance State Repeal Act.