Press Releases

Statement on Senate Vote on FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act

Demand Progress harshly criticizes Democrats who voted for cloture, ceding tremendous power to the executive branch to engage in mass and warrantless surveillance

January 16, 2018
CONTACT: Sean Vitka, Policy Counsel, Demand Progress, 570.798.7678

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This evening, surveillance-expanding legislation known as the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act passed a cloture vote in the Senate. Demand Progress has led opposition to this legislation from its inception, and has urged members of Congress to instead support real reform that upholds the public’s basic privacy rights. The following statement can be attributed to Demand Progress Policy Counsel Sean Vitka:

“Demand Progress condemns in the strongest terms today’s vote in the Senate. This vote now precludes the opportunity to amend the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act — a bill lacking any meaningful reform and that effectively expands surveillance of Americans. Today’s vote is the latest in a failed Senate process in which there has been not one hour of open debate devoted to legislation that will endanger the civil liberties of millions of Americans. The bill’s green light to the government to engage in warrantless surveillance of Americans’ communications is a particularly egregious affront to privacy rights, and has no place under the Fourth Amendment.

“We especially criticize those Democrats who voted for cloture today, and in doing so broke with a bipartisan and principled set of senators who support real reform. With their vote today, these Democrats have ceded tremendous power to the executive branch to engage in mass and warrantless surveillance — a power that history has shown time and again is ripe for abuse. This expanded surveillance power is particularly troubling in the hands of the Trump Administration, which has made regular practice of cynical, politically-expedient and dangerous attacks on our country’s most targeted communities.

“Today’s vote took place in the face of outrageous misrepresentations and bigoted statements by the House Intelligence Committee majority, which every member of Congress should condemn. All Democrats that voted for cloture on this surveillance-expanding bill failed their supporters who expect the party to safeguard basic constitutional protections. Despite today’s vote, Demand Progress will continue to tirelessly advocate for and mobilize the public in support of the very civil liberties protections this legislation fails to uphold. We must prevent further erosion of our rights.”

Last week, 44 privacy and transparency organizations called for the defeat of Section 702 reauthorization unless it included key changes, and hundreds of thousands of Americans have contacted Congress in opposition to reauthorization of Section 702 absent major reforms. Demand Progress Action also called on Democrats to denounce racist propaganda that the House Intel Committee has repeatedly circulated in recent weeks.