Senate Vote Signals the End of Bulk Collection

Washington D.C. – The United States Senate tonight failed to move forward legislation to reform or extend certain surveillance authorities in the USA PATRIOT Act. The three controversial provisions should now expire on June 1, 2015.

“The House has already voted to end bulk collection, and tonight the Senate has proven that there are not enough votes to continue this unlawful surveillance,” said Amie Stepanovich, U.S. Policy Manager at Access.

“Access is disappointed that Congress was unable to pass reform legislation, but let’s be clear: this is a major victory for civil liberties. Access thanks the countless activists who have worked tirelessly for this day, and calls on the Obama Administration to immediately end these unlawful programs and publicly pledge not to re-engage in the same collection under a different legal authority,” added Stepanovich.

Tonight’s vote should make it abundantly clear, that there is no choice but to cease this invasive surveillance. Congress should not try to use this opportunity to expand surveillance authority. Rather, we need legislation that stops all bulk collection. Bulk collection is inherently 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 undermine basic human rights for any reason. 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 the Principles 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.