The American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) is once again urging President Obama and Congressional leaders to end the collection of the personal information of millions of Americans by the National Security Agency (NSA). On Wednesday, ABFE joined a letter signed by more than 40 civil liberties and human rights groups, trade associations, and major Internet and technology companies, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple.
The letter notes that Congress will probably reauthorize Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act before it expires on June 1. In June 2013, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency is using Section 215 to establish the legal authority to collect millions of telephone records daily, including the time and length of calls and other “metadata.” The revelation caused even some supporters of the Patriot Act to call for reforms that will protect the privacy of Americans who are not suspected of crimes.
Reform efforts have fallen short. A USA Freedom Act that would have ended “bulk collection” of communications data passed the House but died in the Senate last fall. In recent months, political opposition to limit surveillance has grown because of rising concern over the threat of terrorism.
This week’s letter urges that any legislation reauthorizing Section 215 include a “clear, strong and effective” end to bulk collection as well as public reporting by both government and technology companies on the implementation of surveillance powers exercised under the Patriot Act.