Nearly 40 advocacy groups press lawmakers over NSA call records program

Nearly 40 advocacy groups press lawmakers over NSA call records program
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Nearly 40 civil rights and civil liberties groups on Monday pressed lawmakers to end the controversial National Security Agency (NSA) call records program and look into whether the government is abusing its other broad surveillance authorities. 

Privacy activists have long argued that elements of the USA Freedom Act — which allows the government to access records on U.S. citizens without a warrant during terrorism investigations — should not be reauthorized.

They say the program has not effectively stopped any terrorist attacks and encroaches on Americans' personal lives.

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The USA Freedom Act, a pared-down version of the 2001 Patriot Act, is up for reauthorization at the end of this year. 

The groups in the letter argued that Congress should investigate whether the NSA and other intelligence agencies are adhering to the restrictions placed on them by the Freedom Act.

"Disclosures made since passage of the USA Freedom Act suggest that the bill has not fully succeeded in limiting large-scale surveillance under the Patriot Act or achieving all of its other objectives," the groups wrote.

The signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Muslim Justice League, the NAACP and others. 

The letter comes weeks after reports indicated that the NSA has ended the call records program.

Between 2001 and 2013, the program allowed the government to sweep up records of Americans’ phone calls and texts in bulk.

After whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed the extent of the program, Congress put limits on what the NSA was allowed to collect. 

"News reports indicate that the NSA may have already halted the call detail record program created by the bill following years-long compliance violations that resulted in the unlawful collection of records," the groups wrote in the letter, addressed to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members As impeachment goes public, forget 'conventional wisdom' What this 'impeachment' is really about — and it's not the Constitution MORE (D-N.J.) and ranking member Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Former Ukraine envoy offers dramatic testimony GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse House to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members MORE (R-Ga.). "Congress should end this program." 

The groups are asking the House Judiciary Committee to release to the public information on other surveillance authorities granted by the act, including whether the information collected has been used to discriminate against vulnerable populations and whether the First Amendment is being protected. 

“Congress must also consider what additional measures are needed to protect individuals’ rights from abuses under the Patriot Act and other surveillance authorities," the coalition wrote. "These important issues should not be debated in the dark.”

Spokespeople for Nadler and Collins did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment on the letter.