(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/1/15) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today welcomed the expiration of one of the U.S. government’s major unconstitutional surveillance authorities, Section 2015 of the USA Patriot Act. Under Section 215 the NSA and FBI have illegally collected the phone, e-mail and online records of millions of law-abiding Americans in the name of national security.
For six years CAIR, other civil liberties organizations and thousands of Americans have repeatedly called on Congress and the White House to put an end to these unjustified domestic surveillance authorities and illegal spying programs.
“The sunset of Section 215 is a strong reminder to the federal government that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies must have probable cause before obtaining the records. The Senate has been provided a historic opportunity to adopt comprehensive legislative reform that addresses the overall issue of NSA and FBI domestic spying. In its review of these programs, CAIR urges the Senate to curtail similar collection authorities like ‘pen register/trap & trace,’ used to gather phone and email records of countless Americans,” said CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw.
For the moment, surveillance authorized under Section 215 now revert to pre-Patriot Act standards where the government is required to rely on “specific and articulable facts” in requesting a warrant to collect the records of individuals suspected of having ties to foreign terrorist organizations or governments. Recently, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, ruled that the collection of bulk telephone records under Section 215 "exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized." This ruling played a major role in the expiration of Section 215.
While CAIR and proponents of privacy rights across the nation momentarily celebrate the sunset of Section 215, the U.S. Senate is posed to vote on a modified surveillance ‘reauthorization and reform’ bill, the USA Freedom Act, as soon as Tuesday morning.
On Sunday night, the Senate voted to move forward in its consideration of the act, which seeks to end bulk collection under Section 215 while requiring more transparency from secret FISA courts. However, the act still leaves intact other questionable surveillance programs and unnecessarily increases the mandatory maximum sentence for material support charges from 15 to 20 years. The threat also remains that some ‘national security hawks’ in the Senate could amend the act to authorize new surveillance programs or expand existing ones.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.