Today, Access joined a coalition of groups in submitting a joint letter to the President and the Attorney General urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) not to renew the Section 215 Bulk Telephony Metadata Program when the current order expires at the end of this week. The current program permits the NSA to collect the call detail records of millions of innocent individuals. These records often convey deeply personal details about users’ lives, including information about intimate relationships, religious affiliation, and health history.
While previously the President announced the White House’s intent to end the Section 215 Program within the year and proposed guidelines for a replacement program, Access and other signatories of today’s letter point out that the President and the Executive Branch have the authority to end this unlawful program now.
“The Section 215 bulk collection program has gone on for too long, despite its serious implications for human rights,” said Amie Stepanovich, Senior Policy Counsel at Access. “President Obama, having expressed his commitment to reforming U.S. surveillance programs, must seize this opportunity to demonstrate strong moral leadership and deliver on Executive Branch promises.”
Although legislative proposals are pending in Congress, the decision to renew the Section 215 Program lies solely with the DOJ. Therefore, the Executive Branch can put an expeditious stop to the bulk collection of phone records without Congressional approval.
“Bulk collection programs do not comply with international human rights standards as outlined in the the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. Continuing this unlawful program only serves to undermine human rights,” said Access Policy Director Jochai Ben-Avie.
Access calls upon the Department of Justice to allow the program’s legal authority to expire without seeking a renewal order, and to ensure that future national security programs comport with US and international law in respecting the fundamental right to privacy and free expression of individuals.