Press Releases

Senate hearing shows need to end Trump administration’s power to conduct mass surveillance

November 6, 2019
Contact: Sean Vitka, [email protected]

Today, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on expiring surveillance authorities, including the controversial provision known as ‘Section 215.’ Section 215 refers to a provision of the USA PATRIOT Act, which for years the government claimed permitted the secret, bulk collection of all phone records of all customers of major telephone service providers. In 2015, the USA FREEDOM Act amended Section 215 and reauthorized it until December 15th, 2019. Under the amended law, the government still collected over 434 million phone records in 2018, an unknown number of which the NSA acknowledges it “was not authorized to receive.”

Demand Progress Education Fund and the FreedomWorks Foundation have released several materials explaining Section 215 at, including an extensive examination of publicly known violations of the laws and rules governing call records surveillance as well as a graphic timeline of the same.

The following statement can be attributed to Sean Vitka, counsel for Demand Progress:

“Today’s hearing further proves the urgent need for Congress to end the Trump administration’s ability to spy on millions of innocent people in the United States. Despite this administration’s claims that it is concerned about unlawful surveillance and the ‘Deep State,’ it is fighting for the permanent reauthorization of a notorious mass surveillance authority that has never proven useful, and has rarely, if ever, been operated in full compliance with the laws and rules governing surveillance of call records.

“However, repeal of the ‘Call Detail Records’ (CDR) program alone is not enough. Congress must prevent this government from using Section 215 to target First Amendment-protected activity and to collect location information without a warrant, and it must put an end to the government’s use of Section 215-derived information in court without giving notice to defendants. Going forward, it is imperative Congress investigate and establish safeguards against the use of Section 215 in ways that disproportionately affect communities of color and immigrants, whom this administration is actively targeting. While mass surveillance affects us all, it does not affect us all equally.”