It’s Monday morning and three sections of the Patriot Act—or, as most on Capitol Hill prefer to call it, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)—have expired. And now that the provisions are gone, ahead of a vote expected late Monday afternoon, a coalition of some of the most left-leaning privacy groups is urging senators to let them stay gone.
As in 2015, the expiration came after the Senate couldn’t pass a reauthorization after factionalizing between those who want more safeguards against the government’s ability to grab Americans’ data and those who don’t. In the absence of “meaningful reforms,” coming in the way of amendments that several privacy-focused senators of both parties seek to propose, Color of Change, Demand Progress, Indivisible, and Free Press Action want senators, “in particular Democrats,” to oppose the cloture bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will put on the floor. That’s according to a letter the groups are circulating on the Hill, shared with The Daily Beast.
“If these authorities can lapse to stop the consideration of any amendments, they can stay lapsed to provide for the consideration of any critical amendments,” the groups write.
As with all civil-libertarian coalitions on surveillance law, it’s an uphill fight. McConnell has the backing of most Republicans and Democrats for the PATRIOT/FISA re-up. He seeks to pass something the House Democratic leadership already has: an extension of the three provisions through 2023. While most of the country is focused on responses to the novel coronavirus, Monday is shaping up to be a low-key important day in the surveillance debate.