OTI Welcomes Cancellation of Vote on Dangerous Bill to Expand and Reauthorize Section 702 Surveillance

Today, House leadership abandoned its attempt to hold a vote this week on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 4478), the House Intelligence Committee’s modified bill to expand and reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) is dismayed that House leadership tried to ram through passage of this dangerous bill. Proponents of this bill have tried to sell it as a reform measure, but in reality, it would have reauthorized Section 702 of FISA for four years without making any meaningful reforms. More concerningly, it would have posed new threats to Americans’ privacy by ratifying privacy-invasive practices and because it could be read to expand the government’s surveillance authority under Section 702.

We thank the many members of Congress who voiced their strenuous opposition to the bill and welcome the decision by House leadership to heed the opposition of the privacy community, including OTI, the American public, and members of Congress, and pull this bill from consideration. Instead, House leadership has reportedly decided to pursue a 30-day reauthorization of Section 702 through January 19, 2018.

The following statement can be attributed to Robyn Greene, policy counsel and government affairs lead, New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“This bill wasn’t just dangerous because its provisions offered only fig leaf surveillance reform; it was also dangerous because its operative provisions could have been read to expand the NSA’s surveillance authority under Section 702 instead of rein it in. We are grateful to the members of Congress who stood up to House leadership and forced the proponents of this bill to abandon their attempt to strong-arm its passage this week. A short-term extension is preferable to the House Intelligence Committee’s bill, but after four years of debate and months of intense negotiations on real reforms to Section 702, there is no good reason why Congress couldn’t have passed a meaningful reform bill. Leadership should allow members to vote on and pass a bill that would prohibit “abouts” collection and end warrantless searches of Americans’ communications.”

New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) strongly opposed this bill when it was considered by the House Intelligence Committee, and has continued to object to it in its modified form. Our backgrounder on the modified bill is available here. Additionally, OTI joined a coalition letter to Congress signed by 32 civil society organizations strongly opposing this bill and urging a “no” vote. That letter is available here.