Congress Must Put Human Rights at the Center of Surveillance Reform

Press Release
May 7, 2014

Congress Must Put Human Rights at the Center of Surveillance Reform

Contact: Natalie Butz, nbutz@aiusa.org, 202-675-8761, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - As the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee debate changes to U.S. surveillance this week, Amnesty International USA urges representatives to put human rights standards at the center of reform efforts.

"Any proposal that fails to ban mass surveillance, end blanket secrecy, or stop discrimination against people outside the U.S. will be a false fix," said Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA,s Security & Human Rights Program. "The right to privacy requires, among other safeguards, that any use of surveillance be narrow in scope, necessary and proportionate to a legitimate aim, and subject to judicial review. Mass surveillance violates these protections by its very nature."

Amnesty International USA is deeply concerned that the House Intelligence Committee proposal appears to merely entrench mass surveillance and urges Representatives to vote against it.

The amended version of the USA Freedom Act introduced in the Judiciary Committee is much better. However, Representatives should require that the text be changed to clearly ban mass surveillance of any type of personal communications. They should also add stronger transparency requirements, including those in the original USA Freedom Act.

Disturbingly, both Committee proposals fail to uphold the human rights of people outside of the U.S. - the vast majority of the world's population. Congress should repeal Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and conduct any surveillance in line with international law.

"If Congress is serious about surveillance reform, it will clearly ban dragnet collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, repeal Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, require the administration to disclose the full scope of its mass surveillance," said Johnson. "Anything less leaves the problem in place both here in the US and around the world."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.