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Access Now opposes proposal to extend warrantless surveillance

Washington D.C. The U.S. House Rules Committee announced that it will convene on Tuesday, January 9th to advance a bill to extend and expand the invasive surveillance authority granted in Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. Access Now condemns the proposal.

The bill is a modified version of a partisan bill advanced by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The bill would extend surveillance authority an additional six years. It also makes the already overbroad authority even more expansive by, among other things, codifying expanded uses of data collected as well as providing a pathway to re-starting so-called “about” collection, which was suspended last year following a decision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Access Now analyzed the top five 702 renewal proposals in late 2017 and found this one to be the worst for human rights.

In addition to these problems, the bill’s sponsors are undermining important congressional procedures. Leadership is sidelining the bipartisan reform bill advanced by the Judiciary Committee  — the committee of proper jurisdiction over these matters — and rushing the bill to the floor using a procedural gimmick.

“This bill is a huge blow to human rights. It ignores the past years of outrage over intelligence overreach in response to the Snowden documents and instead sets out to greatly expand what is already one of the most far-reaching surveillance laws,” said Amie Stepanovich, U.S. Policy Manager at Access Now.

Stepanovich added, “It is this advancement of invasive surveillance that will very likely sink the already tottering mechanisms for data transfers between the U.S. and the European Union. As the EU Court of Justice is preparing to review Privacy Shield and other transfer mechanisms, Congress could very well be teeing up an economic crisis.”

“This is not how Congress should work,” said Nathan White, Senior Legislative Manager at Access Now. “Rather than respect congressional order, Chairman Devin Nunes is pushing a partisan plan to expand President Trump’s surveillance authorities. It’s shameful that Speaker Ryan is allowing this bill to move forward.”

“Speaker Ryan may start the new year with egg on his face, however. Members of Congress in both parties have expressed desire for reform and have voted for amendments to reform Section 702 in the past. If this bill is defeated on the floor — as it should be — Speaker Ryan will have no excuse except his own misunderstanding of the will of his caucus and this Congress,” added White.