USA FREEDOM Act Fails to Move Forward in the Senate

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the USA FREEDOM Act — the bill that would have halted the NSA’s bulk collection of telephony metadata under section 215 of the PATRIOT Act — failed to move forward in the United States Senate, garnering only 58 of the 60 votes needed to be considered on the Senate floor.

This vote on the latest version of the USA FREEDOM Act comes more than one year after civil liberties organizations, digital rights advocates, grassroots activists, and their allies in the United States Congress first began pushing it, and 10 months after President Obama vowed to end the program.

“This vote marks a profound failure of members of the U.S. Senate to take proactive action to protect individual privacy from the NSA’s overreach,” said Access Senior Policy Counsel Amie Stepanovich. “This is not the end of reform efforts. Individuals deserve to have their rights respected — we will continue to push Congress, the president, and international oversight bodies to reform the NSA’s abuses of our privacy.”     

The authority that the USA FREEDOM Act sought to reform is set to sunset in June of 2015 ― unless Congress takes action before that. Access will be looking for Congress to take definitive action as soon as possible to reform not only the Section 215 program, but all programs and authorities that have been revealed over the past 18 months that violate user rights around the world. It is becoming more important each day to expand the scope of reform, and while we will continue to support many of the efforts in the USA FREEDOM Act, we will also increase our push for legislation that complies with international human rights standards and U.S. obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

Notably, several lawsuits are still active challenging the Section 215 program, all of which have Access’ support. Access believes this temporary setback on the road to reform is an opportunity for the broad, bipartisan coalition of individuals, civil society organizations, companies, and lawmakers that oppose unchecked government surveillance to continue to work together to mobilize the public against attacks on our fundamental rights and in support of strong privacy protections.

Finally, Access would like to thank Senator Patrick Leahy, the lead sponsor for the bill.

“Senator Leahy worked tirelessly to get this bill to the Senate floor for a vote,” Stepanovich continues. “He has been a long-time leader on human rights issues, and we are grateful for his efforts.”