Sunlight has joined our allies at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in an effort to stop the reauthorization of Section 215 of the Patriot Act: Fight 215. This new campaign makes it easy for anyone to contact Congress and urge an end to mass surveillance — simply visit Fight 215 to call or tweet your lawmakers and demand a stop to unconstitutional spying today.
Since it was enacted, the Patriot Act has been revealed as the basis for secret, mass surveillance. Section 215 in particular has been clandestinely reinterpreted by a secret court – the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – which hears only from the government. That court held that effectively all American information is “relevant to” foreign intelligence investigations, a reading that even the author of the Patriot Act has forcefully rejected. That interpretation is limited only in the context of collecting actual communications; for instance, the phone call versus who called, whom they called, when they called, for how long they called and from where they called (all of which is fair game). Even then, we also know that the government believes other authorities provide for collection of communications (and everything else) without any warrant or public hearing, as proven by practices involving “upstream collection” and a whole universe of secret surveillance occurring pursuant to Executive Order 12333.
There is no less transparent part of the American government than secret programs authorized by a secret court that determined, against the clear intentions of Congress and the public, that the Bill of Rights meant something different than most people believed. On the other side of decades of secret, mass surveillance of innocent people, it is terrifyingly clear we can no longer continue to let them operate in the dark.