Two days ago we sent you an urgent message about a plot by some members of the U.S. Congress to push through a big expansion to warrantless surveillance authorities. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for you!
Here’s what happened:
Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act is the legal authority that the U.S. government uses to conduct warrantless surveillance programs, like Prism. These are the programs Edward Snowden warned us about — they are used to stockpile massive amounts of personal data, profile, discriminate, and undermine everyone’s privacy. Section 702 was set to expire at the end of this year, but Congress will likely extend the authority.
We’ve been negotiating for OVER TWO YEARS to make sure this authority wasn’t extended without reforms to protect the human rights of people in the U.S. and around the world. While the only solution to fully respect your right to privacy is to end these programs, we’ve gotten close to winning a few reforms that will better protect human rights and increase transparency.
However, rather than engaging in a debate on a bipartisan reform bill, some leaders in Congress began pushing for an urgent vote on a bill to quickly and quietly EXPAND surveillance authority. We heard from our allies that Republican leadership would back the plot, and it appeared Democrats were going to let them do it.
That’s when we sent out the call to raise the alarm. Thankfully enough people called Congress to slow the process down, giving our allies on both sides of the aisle enough support to fight back. With just hours before a procedural meeting to bring the bill to a vote, our friends in Congress took a stand and threatened to vote against leadership.
With the resistance in place, at almost the last minute the leaders of the plot backed down. Instead they agreed to temporarily extend Section 702 through January 19, 2018, giving Congress more time to negotiate a package that includes actual reforms to the programs.
This is hardly ideal — we want these programs to end — but thanks to your quick response, and our dedicated allies on Capitol Hill, we were able to put an end to this plot before they carried it out.
Seriously. This was a close one.
The fight will continue in the new year, and we’re going to need you again. But for now we can all catch our breath, and enjoy some time with our friends and loved ones.