ACTION ALERT: The Surveillance State Is at It Again -- The Liberty Act Is a War on Liberty
November 5, 2017
Win Without War & Color of Change
Loopholes in a legal authority known as Section 702 give the National Security Agency the power to spy on Americans without a warrant. This law expires at the end of 2017, but the House recently introduced a bill called the "USA Liberty Act" that would extend Section 702 for 6 more years. Even worse, the bill lacks common sense reforms that are needed to prevent the kinds of abuse we've already seen with this far-reaching police-state surveillance power.
Special to Environmentalists Against War
ACTION ALERT: The Liberty Act Is a War on Liberty
The Surveillance State Is at It Again
Win Without War
(November 2, 2017) -- Earlier this week, a 29-year-old man drove a box truck onto a bike path in lower Manhattan, killing eight people and wounding several more. This act of mass violence has sparked outrage, grief, and powerful calls for unity from our community. But in this moment of pain, the typical hate-filled voices are also exploiting this attack to promote policies that that do nothing to make our country safe and instead undermine the freedoms at the core of our American values.
We cannot let reckless politicians use this attack to drive us apart. Even -- especially -- when we are afraid and in mourning, we must resist the erosion of our freedom and the abandonment of our civil liberties. We cannot let fear change who we are.
That's why it's so important to make our voices heard right now. Congress will soon vote on a bill to expand the government's power to spy on us, to listen to our phone calls and read our emails -- without needed reforms to prevent abuse. We can stop this, but only if we come together to shut it down.
All of us were outraged and saddened by the senseless violence in the streets of lower Manhattan. These persistent attacks -- whether on protesters in Charlottesville, concertgoers in Las Vegas, or people riding their bikes in New York -- are a reminder of the very real threats we face to our peace and security.
But to protect against these threats we need to focus on the evidence of what works and what doesn't, and the evidence is clear that spying on everyday Americans does nothing to keep us safe.
Right now, loopholes in a legal authority known as Section 702 give the National Security Agency the power to spy on Americans without a warrant. This law expires at the end of 2017, but the House recently introduced a bill called the USA Liberty Act that would extend Section 702 for 6 more years. Even worse, the bill lacks common sense reforms to prevent the kinds of abuse we've already seen with this far-reaching surveillance power. 
The rights to privacy and free association are fundamental to our beliefs as Americans. Our democracy cannot work without them and we need to protect them even in times of crisis and even when we are afraid. If we don't protect these rights, we risk losing the very things that make America a beacon of hope for people around the world.
It's moments like this that define who we are as a nation. Will we stand up for the very freedoms and values that represent the best of who we are, or will we abandon them? When we have failed this test before, some of the most shameful moments in our history were the result. We cannot let that happen again. That's why we have joined with 17 other progressive organizations to get the word out and make sure Congress passes real reforms that will prevent warrantless spying on Americans.
Petition to Congress:
"We urge Congress to significantly improve the so-called "USA Liberty Act" (H.R. 3989) or support strong surveillance reform legislation if wholesale improvements are not forthcoming. As introduced, this bill would extend Section 702, enabling the Trump administration to continue spying on Americans without a warrant.
"The strong language we support is contained in the USA RIGHTS Act (S. 1997 / H.R. 4124), sponsored by Sens. Paul and Wyden, which ends backdoor searches, permanently bans "about" collection, and guarantees that surveillance information cannot be secretly used in court against defendants. Without these reforms to protect our privacy and civil liberties, Section 702 must expire."
ACTION: Please stand with us today. Join us. Tell Congress to fix the 2017 Liberty Act. Tell Congress that we won't sacrifice our values and our liberties because we are afraid .
 Demand Progress
What Happens When Police Get
Access to Powerful Surveillance Tools?
Color of Change
We have the chance to reform an abusive surveillance program. Take action to shutdown Trump’s surveillance machine.Tell Congress: Don't let Trump spy on us!
Our communities are no strangers to intrusive and harmful surveillance by the government. But if Trump and the FBI get their way, they will have unprecedented power to use advanced surveillance tools to harm our movements and communities.
Right now, Trump is pushing Congress to pass the USA Liberty Act, a bill that will extend legal loopholes in a surveillance authority called Section 702, which give Trump the power to spy on Americans without a warrant and secretly share that information with the FBI.
This surveillance serves not only to keep tabs on activists but also to deter them from pushing forward. Surveillance is a tool of fear. It is a tactic to reinforce White supremacy. Again and again, we've seen these agencies target activists of color for simply demanding an end to police violence. (1) And with the recently leaked memo showing the FBI's efforts to classify those who protest police violence as "Black Identity Extremists," we can bet that the FBI will abuse this authority to silence Black voices. (2)
Under the FBI's "Black Identity Extremist" classification, the FBI intentionally conflates Black political activists and organizers with dangerous domestic terrorist organizations that pose actual threats to law enforcement.
By creating this made-up classification, the FBI will be able to more easily carry out warrantless surveillance and harassment of Black activists in a manner similar to the FBI's Civil Rights era COINTELPRO. When combined with an unchecked Section 702, these programs will provide Trump and the FBI vastly expanded abilities to treat peaceful protests, vigils, and community organizing as national security threats.
Right now, the loopholes in Section 702 give Trump the power to spy on Americans without a warrant and then secretly share that information with the FBI. Without congressional action, Section 702 will expire at the end of the year. But Trump is demanding a reauthorization of its spying powers through the USA Liberty Act, but a growing bipartisan block of Congress is fighting for needed reforms to significantly rein in and limit this far-reaching surveillance power.
That's why we're calling on Congress to fundamentally fix the USA Liberty Act. It needs strong reforms to rein in Trump, the NSA, and FBI before anyone should support it.
Here's why the USA Liberty Act needs to be fundamentally fixed. It currently:
* Doesn't stop backdoor searches, which is when the government searches through electronic communications such as emails and texts for information without a warrant. In its current form, the USA Liberty Act would make it much easier for the FBI to get unconstitutional access to people's communications.
* Fails to permanently end "about" collection, an illegal practice the NSA says they've stopped that allows for warrantless spying on Americans' communications that merely mention an intelligence target.
* Doesn't prevent the government from secretly using surveillance information in court against defendants. Despite tens of thousands of searches by the government of Section 702 data, only a handful of defendants have ever received notice of it -- and only after the Department of Justice was caught misleading the Supreme Court about its practices.
Our communities know all too well the devastating ways state surveillance programs like this are used to harm and divide us. With an FBI that shows it is adamant about criminalizing Black protest and communities, we cannot afford for them to have access to secretive surveillance tools like Section 702. We must do whatever we can to push Congress to fundamentally fix Section 702 and keep broad and intrusive surveillance tools out of the hands of Trump and the FBI.
ACTION: We have the chance to reform an abusive surveillance program.
Take action to shutdown Trump’s surveillance machine. Tell your members of Congress: Don't let Trump spy on us. If we can't protect our privacy, then Section 702 needs to be shut down.
Tell Congress: Don't let Trump spy on us!
1. "EXCLUSIVE: FEDS REGULARLY MONITORED BLACK LIVES MATTER SINCE FERGUSON," The Intercept, 24 July 2015.
2. "The FBI's New US Terrorist Threat: 'Black Identity Extremists'," Foreign Policy, 06 October 2018.
Color Of Change is building a movement to elevate the voices of Black folks and our allies, and win real social and political change.