Access Congratulates U.S. Senate for Advancing Legislation to End Bulk Collection

Washington D.C. – Access today congratulates the United States Senate, which voted 77-17 to advance the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015. The legislation will ban bulk collection under some U.S. surveillance powers, increase transparency, and improve accountability. Final passage of the bill was delayed by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) who refused to allow accelerated procedures. However, the bill did overcome procedural hurdles necessary to move forward.

“We welcome the Senate’s advancement of the USA FREEDOM Act, and Congress’ decision to rein in the NSA for the first time in decades,” said Amie Stepanovich, U.S. Policy Manager at Access. “We celebrate this important step and thank the activists who have fought so hard for this victory.”

“It is a shame that the Senate waited until the last possible moments to consider reforms that the people have been demanding for two years.  All surveillance agencies should hear this message loud and clear: unlawful, unaccountable, unacceptable surveillance must end now,”  added Stepanovich.

Because the Senate is unlikely to agree to the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 before certain provisions sunset at midnight, there is possibility that the law could be challenged in court. Access encourages the House and Senate to add a clarifying amendment and pass the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 without any negative changes.

“Access will not stop fighting until surveillance authorities are limited and users around the world are no longer spied on in their most personal moments. After completing consideration of the USA FREEDOM Act, the House and Senate must swiftly consider legislation to reform other surveillance programs and authorities,” said Stepanovich.

Now that the Senate has agreed to legislation to end bulk collection under several authorities, we need legislation that stops ALL bulk collection. Bulk collection isinherently disproportionate, and therefore unacceptable under internationally recognized human rights standards. Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and other authorities have a sunset date in 2017; we should look ahead to this renewal deadline to ensure that we step back from overbroad surveillance, including surveillance conducted under Executive Order 12333.

“The United States must not indiscriminately undermine basic human rights of all users. All surveillance programs must comply with the law and international obligations,” added Stepanovich.

More than 400 organizations have endorsed “13 Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance”. Recently, Access released an Implementation Guide (PDF) that applies thePrinciples to each step of the government surveillance process. It provides a framework for law enforcement and intelligence gathering that respects the human rights of the people.