On March 15, 2020, Section 215—a provision of FISA with a rich history of government overreach and abuse—expired. That provision, along with two other provisions of FISA, lapsed after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on a broader set of FISA reforms.
Late last week, before the law expired, the House of Representatives passed the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act, which would have extended Section 215 for three more years, along with some modest reforms. After the House passed the bill without a committee markup or floor amendments, EFF, along with other civil society groups and Senators Lee, Daines, Leahy and Wyden, worked to convince the Senate that the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act needed real debate and the opportunity to consider amendments. Our letter to the Senate is here.
However, the bill was never considered in the Senate. Instead, on Monday, knowing the vote to proceed in the Senate without debating amendments was going to fail, Senator McConnell instead brought a bill to the floor that would extend all these provisions for another 77 days, without any reforms at all. Senator McConnell's extension passed the Senate without debate.
As it currently stands, the House will approve Senator McConnell's clean extension. This means that once again, Congress has chosen to extend these troubled, expensive programs without debate and without consideration of meaningful privacy and civil liberties safeguards to include.
We are disappointed by this decision. Congress has had more than four years to consider reforms to these programs, and additional oversight and transparency measures are desperately needed. If Congress cannot agree on a reauthorization bill that includes real and necessary reforms, the provisions should remain expired until Congress can agree on appropriate reforms. Instead, we will be pushing for additional, meaningful reforms to be added in the coming days.