Congress will vote to expand the government’s domestic surveillance authority, which can and will be used by law enforcement against Black communities.
Last week Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) made clear why we must act to stop this legislation, “reading the FBI file on [the] SCLC & myself, I am more convinced than ever that we cannot allow government surveillance.” He and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus are fighting back against the USA Freedom Act, and all efforts to renew the domestic spying provisions of the Patriot Act.1
Rep. Lewis and the CBC need our help to block this disastrous domestic spying bill. Will you add your voice to this fight?
After the events of 9/11, Congress rushed to pass the Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act), which gave the U.S government far reaching and unconstitutional powers to spy on American citizens. Disguised as a reform bill, the USA Freedom Act — an extension of the PATRIOT Act — grants greater abilities than ever for the government to spy on civil rights organizers, teachers, construction workers, fast food workers, you and me.2
This legislation has not “strengthened and united” our communities, instead it has made us all targets.
Since our inception, ColorOfChange has called for an end to racist practices by our government and corporations. Since 9/11, the PATRIOT Act has been used as an excuse to indiscriminately target, round up and incarcerate our Arab and Muslim brothers and sisters. There has also been a sharp increase in hate crimes against Black and brown folks who fit a certain profile. Let’s be clear — racial profiling in any form by our government is a danger to all of our communities, regardless of whether we ourselves are in the line of fire.
Just last week a federal court ruled that the government’s domestic phone-spying program— known as Section 2153— under the PATRIOT Act is illegal.4
Now Congress is trying to pass a bill — the deceptively named USA Freedom Act — to create new legal loopholes to allow government agencies to continue their mass surveillance programs, while appearing on the surface to be a surveillance reform bill. Don’t be fooled. This bill is designed to appease the public while cementing the government’s surveillance authority for years to come.
We need to oppose this bill and all other methods by which Congress might extend Section 215.
Fortunately, we have a real chance to make sure that Section 215 is never again used to spy on innocent Americans. If we block the USA Freedom Act from passing in the Senate this week, this dangerous provision of the Patriot Act will expire on June 1st. Our community can make this happen. The bill only has the slimmest of majorities supporting final passage.5 If we all raise our voices and call on Congress we can stop it.
Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have already proven with the existing law that they will exploit every loophole they can find to spy on hundreds of millions of people who are suspected of no wrongdoing. This new law will create even more loopholes that will allow them to spy not just on our phone call data but our Skype, Google Hangout and Snapchat data. Pretty much all data related to our smartphone activity will be fair game to be spied on.6
Stopping this dragnet mass surveillance is not just about protecting our privacy from the government, but it’s a crucial racial justice issue.
To protect the civil liberties of Black and brown communities throughout the country, we need to tell Congress that we know that this bill is nothing more than a Trojan horse.
Thanks and Peace,
–Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Dallas, Evan and the rest of the ColorOfChange team.
May 21, 2015
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1. “Critics blast NSA phone records bill as ‘fake reform’,” Computerworld, 5-15-2015
2. “Here’s What’s Wrong With the USA Freedom Act,” The Nation, 5-6-2015
3. “Verizon forced to hand over telephone data – full court ruling,” The Guardian, 6-5-2013
4. “N.S.A. Collection of Bulk Call Data Is Ruled Illegal,” The New York Times, 5-8-2015
5. “Patriot Act on life support,” The Hill, 5-17-2015
6. “Congress’s Orwellian spying “reforms”: Why the government wants to outsource its surveillance to your Internet provider,” Salon, 4-30-2015