Press Releases

Demand Progress Criticizes the House’s Reauthorization of Mass Surveillance Authorities

November 19, 2019
Contact: Sean Vitka, [email protected]

Today, the House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution to fund the government until December 20, 2019, and included in this legislation a three-month reauthorization of controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities, including Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act/USA FREEDOM Act. The following statement can be attributed to Sean Vitka, counsel for Demand Progress:

“Congress has had over four years to consider and reform these surveillance powers. It has been 17 months since the public learned the Call Detail Records program was fundamentally broken and being used to unlawfully spy on innocent people, and a year since it was shut down by the NSA. It is a massive dereliction of duty to reauthorize these authorities for any period of time without fundamental fixes.

“Congress must reform PATRIOT Act-era surveillance authorities — not kick the can down the road. In addition to repealing the Call Detail Records program, the public needs members of Congress to ensure these authorities cannot be used for warrantless location tracking, that First Amendment-protected activities are not targeted, and that defendants receive notice of surveillance used against them.

“While we would oppose these authorities under any administration, history demonstrates that mass surveillance disproportionately impacts communities of color, immigrants, and other marginalized groups that Donald Trump is actively targeting. Democrats in particular should be held accountable when it comes to ensuring the PATRIOT Act is not reauthorized for any period without major reforms.”

An amendment from Representative Amash to strip this reauthorization from the Continuing Resolution (Sec. 1703) was ruled out of order. Demand Progress and over two dozen other civil liberties organizations decried the reauthorization in a letter available here.

The authorities this CR would extend are deeply problematic. Section 215 authorizes the currently shuttered Call Detail Records (CDR) program. In 2018, that program vacuumed up over 434 million call detail records related to millions of innocent people in the United States who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. After disclosing that a significant amount of that surveillance was unlawful, as well as a subsequent overcollection incident, the National Security Agency shuttered the program, in significant part due to its negligible intelligence value. A number of resources about this authority are available at