On May 6, 2015, ARL joined two broad coalition letters to the leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, one supporting the USA FREEDOM Act while the other opposes straight reauthorization of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
On April 28, the USA FREEDOM Act (S.1123, H.R. 2048) was re-introduced in the Senate and House. ARL joined a letter with 26 other groups to express support for the USA FREEDOM Act because it “enhances privacy rights, transparency, and accountability.” ARL supports swift passage of this bill because it would provide meaningful reform of current NSA surveillance practices, particularly the bulk collection of data taking place under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, also known as the “library records” or “business records” provision. The letter notes that while this version of the USA FREEDOM Act “is not as comprehensive or protective of civil liberties as we would prefer . . . we believe the bill would significantly improve the status quo. We urge Congress to consider USA FREEDOM to be but one step towards reform. . .” Section 215 is set to expire on June 1st, 2015. CDT has a great comparison chart of the 2014 version of the USA FREEDOM Act that passed the House, the 2014 version that fell just two votes shy of cloture in the Senate, and the 2015 version.
ARL also joined a letter opposing “straight reauthorization” of Section 215. Senator McConnell proposed reauthorization through 2020 which provides no amendments to this provision that has been used by the NSA for bulk collection of telephone records. The letter, signed by 52 diverse groups, points out that “bulk surveillance programs raise serious constitutional concerns, erode global confidence in the security of digital products, and are unnecessary for national security.” Additionally, the letter points out that “In the absence of meaningful reform, it is unacceptable to rubber stamp reauthorization of any authority that the government has used to spy on millions of innocent Americans.”