Buried in a stopgap government funding resolution unveiled by House Democrats Monday is a provision that would reauthorize the notoriously abusive Patriot Act for three months, a move privacy advocates warned would ensure President Donald Trump's administration holds on to "terrifying authoritarian surveillance powers."
Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, highlighted the provision on Twitter shortly after House Democrats released the continuing resolution (pdf), which would temporarily avert a looming government shutdown by providing funding for federal agencies through December 20. A House vote on the measure is expected as early as Tuesday.
"Wow," said Greer. "House Democrats are ignoring civil liberties and including a three month straight re-authorization of the Patriot Act (with zero reform) in the continuing resolution."
"When the Patriot Act's surveillance authorities were initially enacted, they came with a 'sunset' clause to safeguard against the exact scenario where we had an authoritarian, racist, openly fascist president," Greer added. "And yet here we are and top Dems are still supporting reauthorization."
Wow. House Democrats are ignoring civil liberties & including a three month straight re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act (with zero reform) in the Continuing Resolution.
Very cool way to resist Trump by ensuring he continues to have terrifying authoritarian surveillance powers. pic.twitter.com/KxiCBlPpKS
— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) November 18, 2019
The provision, which appears on the second-to-last page of the funding measure, quickly drew outrage from advocacy groups and vows of opposition from a few House lawmakers.
"Yeah that's gonna be a no from me," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Hours later, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) echoed her colleague: "Yeah... no. Count me out."
While the Patriot Act provision received virtually no attention in the media—reporting on the continuing resolution in NPR, Politico, Roll Call, and CNBC did not mention it—advocacy groups ramped up calls for House Democrats to reverse course.
Shame on them.
Retweet if you want Congress to repeal the Patriot Act instead of reauthorizing it. pic.twitter.com/k5noU6m2yz
— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) November 18, 2019
"The continuing resolution would reauthorize a mass surveillance authority that has never been proven useful and that has consistently broken the laws and rules governing surveillance," tweeted Demand Progress. "Democrats must not hand this president these dangerous Patriot Act authorities."