Tech groups back Patriot Act fix bill

Seven tech groups are backing a bill that would reform provisions of the Patriot Act some say are responsible for unreasonable government surveillance.

“Public trust in the technology sector is critical, and that trust has declined measurably among both U.S. citizens and citizens of our foreign allies since the revelations regarding the U.S. surveillance programs began 2 years ago,” the groups say in the letter written to House leaders endorsing the USA Freedom Act.

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“Critically, the bill ends the indiscriminate collection of bulk data, avoids data retention mandates, and creates a strong transparency framework for both government and private companies to report national security requests,” they said.

The letter was signed by the Information Technology Industry Council, the Internet Association, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, BSA | The Software Alliance, TechNet, Reform Government Surveillance and the Software & Information Industry Association.

“Meaningful surveillance reform is vital to rebuilding the essential element of trust not only in the technology sector but also in the U.S. government,” the groups wrote to Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBottom line Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future Lott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients MORE (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “With 21 days remaining until the sunset of certain national security authorities, we urge you to swiftly move to consider and pass the USA Freedom Act without harmful amendments.”

The letter comes as members in both chambers prepare for debate over whether and how to reauthorize the provisions in the Patriot Act that critics say enable surveillance. Some, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms States begin removing Capitol's Confederate statues on their own Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (R-Ky.), support reauthorizing the provisions without making any changes to them.

Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal MORE (D-Ore.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  A plan to empower parents, increase education options as an uncertain school year looms Multiple lawmakers self-quarantine after exposure to Gohmert MORE (R-Ky.) have both said that they are willing to filibuster the reauthorization if reforms aren’t included.

The USA Freedom Act was negotiated by members in both chambers from both sides of the aisle. If passed, it would essentially bring to an end the warrentless bulk surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency and revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden. Since the Snowden leaks became public, tech companies have been in the chorus of voices calling for reforms to the NSA program.

Lawmakers are working with a deadline of June 1, when the three provisions expire.