Today, OTG joined a letter calling on members of the House Judiciary Committee to close the loophole in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that the government uses to conduct surveillance of Americans without a warrant. The letter urges members of the Committee to pass the “Shut the Backdoor,” amendment, which will be considered during tomorrow’s markup of the USA Liberty Act, legislation to reauthorize and reform Section 702 of the FISA.
Under Section 702, the NSA collects vast amounts of phone calls, emails, text messages, and other information from Americans communicating with people overseas, sweeping up an unknown amount of domestic communications in the process. The FBI and other agencies then use the backdoor loophole to comb through the NSA’s database of private communications flowing in and out of the U.S. without a court order. OTG, together with a broad coalition privacy, civil liberties, civil rights, and government accountability groups, continues to call for reforms to the law that would prevent the FBI and domestic law enforcement agencies from engaging in unlawful surveillance of U.S. persons, and to enact stronger transparency and oversight measures to enable Congress and the public to evaluate the effectiveness of government surveillance programs.
The 702 reform debate is intensifying in Congress as recently leaked documents have exposed the FBI’s newly invented “Black Identity Extremists” category, amplifying existing concerns that communities of color, religious minorities, and activists are increasingly subject to unconstitutional government monitoring. On December 5th, OTG will hold a town hall event to bring together experts to discuss how these issues intersect, and ways to collaborate and align efforts to enhance transparency and accountability surrounding government surveillance practices (read more and RSVP to attend the OTG town hall, here).
Read the letter to members of the House Judiciary Committee, here.