Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC/DDF May 2015 Newsletter

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May 8, 2015

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC Monthly Newsletter

May 2015, Vol. 14 No. 4

Will Congress extend mass surveillance?

In advance of the scheduled expiration of three provisions of the PATRIOT Act in June, and in the wake of a major judicial ruling recognizing that mass surveillance under one of those provisions is illegal, Congress is considering three pending proposals to reform mass surveillance.

The first, the bipartisan Surveillance State Repeal Act (HR 1466), would repeal the PATRIOT Act and the 2008 FISA Amendments in their entirety. BORDC enthusiastically supports this measure as the only one that would enforce a constitutional baseline for reform, rather than accepting one contrived by a decade of lies and obfuscation spanning presidential administrations from each of the major political parties. Despite having attracted support from both sides of the partisan aisle, the bill remains invisible to most members of Congress and the press, suggesting a vital role for constituents concerned about congressional co-optation by the executive.

The second measure, fast-tracked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would reauthorize the expiring PATRIOT Act provisions without imposing any reforms to address the abuses revealed by whistleblowers. Needless to say, this bill is opposed by a broad swath of Americans. BORDC’s Shahid Buttar described it recently as “the legislative equivalent of not showing up for work.”

Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees seeking acompromise that would extend mass surveillance introduced the USA Freedom Act of 2015, which would restrain some facets of dragnet surveillance while preserving others. Because it fails to stop bulk collection and would extend authorities currently set to expire, the so-called Freedom Act has drawn assertive opposition from a range of groups, including BORDC, Demand Progress, the Republican Liberty Caucus, and every one of the NSA whistleblowers remaining in the country after resigning their career to inform the public.

On May 7, a federal appeals court issued a ruling recognizing the illegality of mass surveillance under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. The ruling characterizes bulk collection as beyond the limits permitted by the enabling statutes, while conspicuously avoiding a decision as to its constitutionality. According to Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, “The current reform proposals from Congress look anemic in light of the serious issues raised by the Second Circuit.”

BORDC has developed a brief set of suggested talking points, and encourages concerned Americans to take a moment today to contact your congressional representatives to share your views, ideally together with friends and neighbors who share them, too.

Read the latest news and analysis from the People’s Blog for the Constitution

The People’s Blog for the Constitution features news and analysis beyond the headlines on a daily basis, and offers an easy way to stay up-to-date and informed.

Highlights include:


Grassroots News

To get involved in any of these campaigns, please email BORDC’s Organizing Team.  We are eager to hear from you and help support your activism.

BORDC in the news

BORDC promotes concerns about the contitutional crisis—and grassroots activism challenging the national security state—through media such asTwitter and Facebook, as well as traditional media including print, online, radio, and television. Check out our latest appearances:

  • April 9: BORDC was mentioned in the Examiner as part of a coalition to end the country’s surveillance program
  • April 15: Shahid Buttar’s participation in a St. Louis University Law School forum on police body cameras was covered in the The St. Louis American
  • April 17: Buttar was quoted in The Guardian in a story regarding surveillance reform and the limited contours of the current congressional debate
  • April 18: Buttar was featured on in a video from a local coalition’s event in Cleveland, OH, examining the problems with police body cameras, as well as in storied on Fox News, WKSU News, and Ohio News
  • April 21: Buttar visited Thom Hartmann on The Big Picture to discuss constitutional problems with Stingray devices developes by the CIA to help local police spy on your mobile phones and data devices
  • April 27: Buttar visited The Big Picture again to discuss surveillance reform and the competing proposed measures described above

Resources and Opportunities

To help encourage outreach, public education, and grassroots mobilization, BORDC has provided microgrants to grassroots coalitions pursuing local campaigns to advance civil rights and civil liberties.

  • Grants up to $500 are available to help active coalitions expand their local visibility, and/or host events. To apply for a grant, please email the BORDC Organizing Team.
  • Intern with us. Are you interested in a summer internship with BORDC? Please send your cover letter and resume to

Help BORDC restore the rule of law

  • Get involved! Volunteer, organize, raise your voice—we have an opportunity that’s right for everyone.
  • Read our blog. We publish the latest civil liberties news, plus analysis beyond the headlines.
  • Support our work! Donate online or mail a check or money order to:

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
8 Bridge Street, Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060 

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