Weekly Spotlight: The fight to privacy

Surveillance bill sparks chaos in the House 

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If you follow POGO on twitter, you know this has been a chaotic week in the House of Representatives. Last Friday, we learned that the House was going to fast-track a vote on a bill to reauthorize Section 702, a controversial provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that enables the government to engage in mass, warrantless surveillance. And over the weekend, we got word that representatives were considering invoking a “secret session” to debate the bill ahead of the vote. 

This was beyond alarming. Secret sessions are reserved for highly confidential matters, and in this case, one would’ve been wholly unnecessary. A secret session would have only provided cover for surveillance hawks to use scare tactics to further chip away at our privacy and prevent reforms on the data-broker loophole that lets law enforcement buy data instead of getting a warrant for it: a loophole we’ve been fighting hard to close. 

Thankfully, the House changed course after public outcry (including from our supporters) — though a future secret session doesn’t seem to be completely off the table. 

The House ended up also changing course on its plan to vote on reauthorization, because of a lack of consensus over reform. Members were similarly unable to reach consensus late last year, when they were forced to issue a short-term extension on Section 702 to continue negotiations. 

It seems like reauthorization is likely going to be taken up again closer to Section 702’s expiration date of April 19. In the meantime, it’s important we do everything we can to demand Congress close the data-broker loophole — our privacy is at stake. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more on how you can bring an end to warrantless surveillance. 


It’s going to be all systems go from now until April to close the data-broker loophole. Give a gift to POGO to help fuel this critical work.



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Julia Gledhill, Analyst for the Center for Defense Information, in Defense One