Senate passes bipartisan amendment to protect surveillance targets, delays FISA reauthorization

The Senate Wednesday passed an amendment to the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act that would put a check on government surveillance activities by expanding the role of independent “friend of the court” to include FBI surveillance asks in all cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

"This is a critical victory towards reforming our broken intelligence surveillance system,” ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani said in a statement after 77 senators voted for a bipartisan amendment introduced by Sen Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. “After many years of just rubberstamping laws used to commit civil liberties violations, Congress has overwhelmingly passed changes that will help ensure that government claims before a secret intelligence court do not go unchecked.”

By voting in the amendment, the Senate will send the bill back to the House, delaying reauthorization of the act. Guliani implored the House not to “consider any legislation that excludes these important changes.”

While the amendment “won't address all of the surveillance abuses that have come to light in recent years and Congress has more work to do to protect Americans' privacy online,” Guliani said, “The vote today shows that a majority of senators agree that what we do online should not be subject to warrantless surveillance — and it’s past time for Congress to make this clear in our laws."

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