Civil libertarians and internet freedom groups declared tentative victory on Wednesday after House Republicans announced that they have—at least for now—abandoned efforts to sneak through a measure that would have reauthorized Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and vastly expanded NSA spying powers.
“This isn’t over yet. They may still try to attach a surveillance extension bill to unrelated funding bills before the end of the year. Please keep up the pressure. It’s working.”
—Electronic Frontier Foundation
A number of prominent groups and public figures—including Fight for the Future, the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), and Edward Snowden—have been working to call attention to the legislation in recent days amid the flurry of tax and budget developments.
“Like with the tax bill and healthcare, House Republicans are now trying to pass an awful NSA surveillance expansion bill within hours of releasing the text and with zero debate,” FPF executive director Trevor Timm warned in a tweet on Tuesday.
But just hours before House Republicans were set to convene for a hearing and possibly a vote on Wednesday, the effort was suddenly abandoned. While a “short-term extension of current FISA language” is expected to be proposed, any plans for a long-term extension have effectively been scrapped, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), one of the groups that has been raising alarm about the measure on over the past several weeks, attributed the Republicans’ decision to abandon the long-term extension of Section 702—set to expire in less than two weeks—to a flood of grassroots pressure directed at Congress in the form of phone calls, social media posts, and online petitions.
“Just like that, in less than 12 hours, last-ditch efforts to cram an NSA surveillance expansion bill were delayed—and possibly derailed,” EFF wrote on Twitter. “Your voices are heard.”
However, the group warned, the fight against attempts to extend Section 702—and the broader fight to end warrantless spying—is far from over.
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“They may still try to attach a surveillance extension bill to unrelated funding bills before the end of the year,” EFF concluded. “Please keep up the pressure. It’s working.”