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Mass surveillance under the PATRIOT Act

On December 15th, 2019, Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act will once again come up for sunset. For years, the FBI and NSA used Section 215 to secretly collect all telephone records across the United States. The USA FREEDOM Act restricted this practice, yet under only one sub-provision of Section 215, the NSA acquired over 534 million phone records in 2017.

To answer some of the many questions around Section 215, Alex Abdo will walk you through his team’s historic successes and setbacks challenging mass surveillance in court, Sandy Fulton will describe the real impacts of mass surveillance in America, and Marcy Wheeler will debut findings from a new report she has authored for Demand Progress Education Fund on the authority. In turn, this panel will explain what Congress and the public know about Section 215 and what they need to find out before it comes back up for reauthorization.


  • Alex Abdo, senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute. While at the ACLU in 2015, Abdo argued an appeal that resulted in the Second Circuit invalidating the NSA’s bulk call-records program.

  • Sandy Fulton, government relations director at Free Press Action Fund. Fulton is one of the primary advocates focused on the reform of mass surveillance in America.

  • ModeratorSean Vitka, director of the Fourth Amendment Advisory Committee.

  • Marcy Wheeler, senior fellow at the Center for Cyber & Homeland Security at George Washington University. Wheeler is also the primary author and owner of the blog emptywheel and the primary author of two Demand Progress Education Fund reports chronicling mass surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

WHEN: Monday, February 25, 2019 at 12 pm

WHERE: Longworth 1310

Sean Vitka