Last week, cowards from both sides of the aisle caved into America's lawless spy agencies, and today bipartisan senators reprised that cowardice to ensure that the Senate would not get a chance to vote on amendments to the renewal of Section 702, the rule that has allowed the NSA to conduct mass, warrantless surveillance on Americans in secret, without meaningful oversight or limits.
It was a crushing defeat for anyone who cares about civil liberties, the rule of law, and the Bill of Rights. In a stirring open letter, Electronic Frontier Foundation executive director Cindy Cohn (previously) gives us all the furious post-game analysis we need: people everywhere, of every political persuasion, are waking up to the dangers of the mass surveillance that the spies poisoned the digital world with, and their time is running out. More people than ever, from more walks of life, stood up for limits on Section 702, and that number will only grow from here on in.
The legal challenges to NSA spying refuse to die. Toolsmiths are hardening their systems against surveillance. And the NSA's dirty laundry keeps getting aired. Lather, rinse, repeat. A better world is possible.
We offer this response to the National Security Agency and its allies in Congress: enjoy it while you can because it won’t last.
Today’s Congressional failure redoubles our commitment to seek justice through the courts and through the development and spread of technology that protects our privacy and security.
First, in the courts. We’ve actively litigated against NSA spying since 2005. Our flagship lawsuit against mass surveillance Jewel v. NSA is currently in discovery in the District Court, having survived multiple challenges by the government. The government even sought in October to indefinitely delay responding to demands from the court to turn over documentation of surveillance, but the court refused. Instead, they are facing a looming deadline to produce documents to the court: February 16, 2018. We’re also confronting NSA mass spying through use of the Freedom of Information Act, supporting the other cases against mass spying, and participating in the few criminal court cases where the government has admitted using evidence collected under Section 702.
We also continue to search for new cases and arguments to challenge NSA mass spying in court—stepping up to the legal challenge of finding people who have admissible evidence that they have been surveilled and can pass the hurdle of standing that has blocked so many before.
We aim to bring mass surveillance to the Supreme Court. By showcasing the unconstitutionality of the NSA’s collect-it-all approach to tapping the Internet, we’ll seek to end the dragnet surveillance of millions of innocent people. We know that the wheels of justice turn slowly, especially when it comes to impact litigation against the NSA, but we’re in this for the long run.