Yesterday, for the first time since the 9/11 attacks, Congress let a significant legal authority for surveillance lapse as Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act expired. The law’s sunset is at least temporary, and the Senate is poised to vote on surveillance reforms in the USA Freedom Act later this week.
In response, Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program issued the following statement:
“In the nearly 15-year struggle to defend human rights and civil liberties in a post-9/11 climate of permanent crisis, this was a symbolic repudiation of the claim that ‘national security’ justifies giving the government an indefinite license to commit systematic rights violations.
“The expiration of the USA PATRIOT Act is also a warning signal to governments worldwide that are currently seeking to expand their technological capabilities and legal authorities for surveillance. Nearly two years since whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations, there is growing public concern worldwide about governments seeking to gather, store and analyze the most intimate details of our personal lives, whenever they like and with little oversight.”
The lapsing of section 215 of the USA Patriot Act and new reforms likely to pass in the USA Freedom Act are a significant change, but do not address global surveillance, including the need to protect the privacy of non-US citizens from mass surveillance. Amnesty International calls on governments to ban all indiscriminate mass surveillance of communications.