Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release


Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

Press Release

Patriot Act Reauthorization Bill Passes the Senate with Some New Privacy Safeguards. The House Needs to Add More.


On Thursday, the Senate voted to reauthorize sweeping surveillance powers allowing national-security agencies to spy on the communications of millions of people in the United States.

The vote occurred following several efforts to offer amendments to improve privacy safeguards in the bill. The only amendment to succeed, offered by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D–Vermont) and Mike Lee (R–Utah), expands the role of amici curiae to protect against wrongful FISA targeting of religious groups, political organizations and the press.

The reauthorized spying authority, established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the USA Patriot Act, was set to sunset late last year. It’s been temporarily extended twice, instead of receiving full reauthorization, due to growing bipartisan opposition to the controversial authorities.  

Even with the addition of the Leahy–Lee amendment, Free Press Action does not support this legislation in its current form and urges the House to adopt additional privacy safeguards. If the Senate bill passed today also passes the House, it will head to President Donald Trump’s desk.

Free Press Action Government Relations Director Sandra Fulton made the following statement:

“This bill should not be enacted into law without more privacy-strengthening measures. The Senate adoption of the Leahy-Lee amendment is a huge win for civil-liberties champions, but the loss of the warrant protection for browser history due to absences during the vote by supportive senators was a huge disappointment. These protections are particularly critical given the Trump administration’s history of abusing marginalized communities and others the president regards as enemies. But more safeguards are necessary.

“Without more protections that would limit the information spy agencies can collect without a warrant, Congress will be giving the Trump administration the power to snoop on billions of data points for every single person in the United States. Thankfully, many Republicans are joining Democrats to say that the original legislation doesn’t do enough to protect everyone’s privacy rights.

“It should still be unthinkable to extend these spying powers to the same agencies that have so often sidestepped safeguards and ignored Americans’ fundamental privacy rights. The Leahy–Lee amendment is a step in the right direction, but we cannot support any bill that doesn’t go further. The House should do more, starting with protecting web-browsing and search records. At a moment in history when we need Congress to be vigilant, there’s no excuse for failing to protect our rights and privacy.”


Free Press Action is fighting grave threats to the free and open internet, local journalism and a functioning democracy.

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·

Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·

PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·

Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers

The latest passage of the NDAA "is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors' interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo