FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Daniel Schuman, policy director, 240-237-3930, [email protected]
WASHINGTON, DC—A bipartisan group of 27 civil liberty and transparency organizations urged members of the House Judiciary Committee in a letter released today to oppose the USA LIBERTY Act at the committee’s upcoming markup unless it closes the so-called “backdoor search loophole.” Committee markup of the surveillance legislation that reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is anticipated in the near future.
The backdoor search loophole is a provision through which the government searches—without first obtaining a court-issued warrant based on probable cause—for information about U.S. persons or persons inside the U.S. This violates the Constitution and is an attack on people’s privacy.
The USA LIBERTY Act’s co-sponsors have not sufficiently addressed this issue to garner support from civil liberties, civil rights, and transparency organizations.
- 47 organizations said on October 13 that “we cannot support the USA LIBERTY Act at this stage without further changes to strengthen the warrant requirement for searching databases containing Section 702 information.”
- 42 organizations on October 24 endorsed the USA RIGHTS Act in part because it closes the backdoor search loophole.
- Even longtime surveillance advocate Sen. Feinstein issued a statement on October 24 regarding an amendment she offered to require law enforcement to get a warrant based on probable cause before accessing private emails—i.e, to close the backdoor search loophole.
Letter to the House Judiciary Committee
October 31, 2017
Dear Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, and Members of the House Judiciary Committee:
We, the undersigned civil liberties, civil rights, and transparency organizations, respectfully urge members of the House Judiciary Committee to oppose the USA LIBERTY Act when it is marked up by committee unless it closes the so-called “backdoor search loophole” through which the government searches—without first obtaining a court-issued warrant based on probable cause—for information about U.S. persons or persons inside the U.S.
As former Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein said this past week concerning her amendment to close the loophole: “The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that a warrant is required prior to accessing the content of an American’s phone calls or emails.” “It’s important that before law enforcement accesses these private emails, they first get a warrant as required under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution.” The House Judiciary Committee should report legislation that exceeds the low bar set by Sen. Feinstein.
To protect our liberty and respect our constitutional rights, any legislation reported by committee should fully the backdoor search loophole. The USA RIGHTS Act, which 42 organizations endorsed, provides a model (and legislative language) for how this can be accomplished.
Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
American Library Association
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Association of Research Libraries
Campaign for Liberty
Center for Human Rights and Privacy
Color Of Change
Demand Progress Action
Free Press Action Fund
Government Accountability Project
Government Information Watch
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Coalition Against Censorship
People for the American Way
Restore The Fourth
The Center for Popular Democracy
Yemen Peace Project
 “Intelligence Committee Votes Down Section 702 Warrant Requirement Amendment,” Press Release, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (October 24, 2017), available at https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=C4A6499F-F3F6-4980-9778-8C5CE8C4B9A9.
 Letter to the Senate endorsing the USA RIGHTS Act (October 24, 2017), available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/demandprogress/letters/Letter_from_42_Orgs_in_Support_of_USA_RIGHTS_Act_2017-10-24.pdf.