Coalition Urges Judiciary Reps to Require Probable Cause Warrant Before Surveilling Americans
Washington, D.C.—Today a coalition of 43 civil liberties, civil rights, and transparency organizations, coordinated by Demand Progress Action, delivered a letter to House Judiciary Committee members urging them to vote for the “Shut the Backdoor” amendment, offered by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), to help close the “backdoor search loophole” when the House Judiciary Committee holds a markup of the USA Liberty Act on Wednesday.
The USA Liberty Act reauthorizes Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which allows collection of foreign intelligence information but sweeps in U.S. person communications. The government uses the loophole to search its massive databases—without first obtaining a court-issued warrant based on probable cause—for information about U.S. persons and persons inside the United States. These powers are dangerous in the hands of any president, but most especially in the hands of President Trump and Attorney General Sessions.
While the Liberty Act theoretically precludes searches for domestic law enforcement purposes, it allows warrantless searches of Americans for “foreign intelligence” purposes, which violates the Constitution and is so broad as to leave the door wide open for domestic purposes. In fact, USA Liberty allows the National Security Agency to continue warrantless searches of US persons’ data without restriction, and in the most circumstances also will allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation to continue searching the Section 702 database without a warrant. As Sen. Feinstein recently noted, searches of Americans’ communications without a probable cause warrant issued by a court—for whatever reason—violate the Constitution and undermine Americans’ privacy.
“The government has long made use of the ‘backdoor search loophole’ to conduct unconstitutional, warrantless surveillance of Americans’ communications,” said Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress Action policy director. “Before the government searches these private emails, they must be forced to obtain a court-issued warrant as required under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. We support the “Shut the Backdoor” Amendment because it is necessary to protect our privacy and our constitutional rights. We cannot let the USA Liberty Act give President Trump the power to search our private emails without first going to court to get a warrant.”
Signatories on the letter include: 18MillionRising.org, Advocacy for Principled Action in Government, American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Association of Research Libraries, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Campaign for Liberty, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Human Rights and Privacy, Center for Media Justice, Center for Popular Democracy, Color Of Change, Constitutional Alliance, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Daily Kos, Defending Rights & Dissent, Demand Progress Action, Electronic Frontier Foundation, FirstAmendment.com, Free Press Action Fund, Free the People, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Government Accountability Project, Government Information Watch, Media Alliance, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Immigration Law Center, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Oakland Privacy, OpenTheGovernment, People For the American Way, Presente.org, Restore The Fourth, RootsAction.org, SumOfUs, The Constitution Project, UltaViolet, Union for Reform Judaism, Win Without War, Yemen Peace ProjectLast week 27 organizations announced they would oppose the USA Liberty Act unless the backdoor search loophole was closed.
Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Members
November 6, 2017
Dear Members of the House Judiciary Committee:
We, the undersigned 43 civil liberties, civil rights, and transparency organizations, urge you to support the “shut the backdoor” amendment, offered by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), to help close the “backdoor search loophole” when the House Judiciary Committee holds a markup for the USA Liberty Act, set for Wednesday.
The USA Liberty Act reauthorizes Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which allows collection of foreign intelligence information but sweeps in U.S. person communications. The government uses the loophole to search its massive databases—without first obtaining a court-issued warrant based on probable cause—for information about U.S. persons and persons inside the United States. As Sen. Feinstein recently noted, these searches violate the Constitution and undermine Americans’ right to privacy.
Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Association of Research Libraries
Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
Campaign for Liberty
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Human Rights and Privacy
Center for Media Justice
Center for Popular Democracy
Color Of Change
Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Action
Free Press Action Fund
Free the People
Freedom of the Press Foundation
Government Accountability Project
Government Information Watch
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Immigration Law Center
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
New America’s Open Technology Institute
People For the American Way
Restore The Fourth
The Constitution Project
Union for Reform Judaism
Win Without War
Yemen Peace Project