Washington, DC (June 3, 2015) – After failing to enact legislation prior to the May 31 sunset of various surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act, last night the U.S. Senate passed the USA Freedom Act and the President signed it into law. This marks the first time in three decades that any meaningful restrictions have been placed on the surveillance power of the National Security Agency, in this case as relates to the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone data. Among other provisions, which were opposed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), the USA Freedom Act extends through 2019 the Patriot Act's extraordinary "roving wiretaps" and "lone wolf" surveillance programs, while increasing the maximum sentence to 20 years for violating the vague "material support" statute, a law so broad that it can ensnare even those who for humanitarian reasons interact with a U.S. government-designated terror group for the purposes of aiding civilians within that group's territorial control or criminalize pure speech.
"The passage of the USA Freedom Act should be seen as an important first step, providing an opportunity to proceed to even more meaningful surveillance reform," said NACDL President Theodore Simon. "Moving forward, we need to implement reforms that will address the use by law enforcement in a wide array of domestic prosecutions of these vast pools of information the government has collected on a more relaxed standard than the Fourth Amendment requires. Additionally, the accused in domestic prosecutions must be provided with notice of the actual source of the evidence being used against them, as well as access to potentially exculpatory information in those databases. NACDL will continue its diligent efforts to roll back such encroachments on the rights of the accused, and indeed on the rights of all people in this country."
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.