Friday, December 20, 2013

54 Civil Liberties and Public Interest Organizations Oppose the FISA Improvements Act

Rainey Reitman
Deeplinks Blog

Fifty-four civil liberties and public interest groups sent a letter to Congressional leadership Wednesday opposing S. 1631, the FISA Improvements Act. The bill, promoted by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), seeks to legalize and extend NSA mass surveillance programs, including the classified phone records surveillance program confirmed by documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this summer.

On Monday, a federal judge found the phone records program that Senator Feinstein’s bill supports was likely unconstitutional. In a sharply worded opinion, Judge Leon explained, “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval.”

Senator Feinstein has been promoting the bill as a way to rein in NSA overreach, but legal experts have criticized the bill for attempting to sanction the worst of the surveillance abuses. The letter published today calls on members of Congress to reject the FISA Improvements Act and champion reform that would end mass surveillance by the NSA.

Signers included the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Greenpeace USA, PEN American Center, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, TechFreedom, and others.

The coalition letter highlighted the free speech concerns with continued bulk data collection by the NSA, noting, “The NSA mass surveillance programs already sweep up data about millions of people daily. This shadow of surveillance chills freedom of speech, undermines confidence in US Internet companies, and runs afoul of the Constitution.”

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