On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved the USA Liberty Act to move to the House floor, which reaffirmed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Sec. 702, which allows for communication surveillance of non-U.S. residents.
However, failing to pass was an Amendment to the Act that would protect U.S. citizens, who might be on the opposite side of the communications, from having these viewed without a warrant. This was a bipartisan effort to protect American citizens from warrantless searches and seizure of communication mediums lead by Ted Poe (R-Tex.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). These Representatives made the case that measure would ensure inherit constitutional rights and provisions while allowing the intelligence community to still carry out its mission of identifying threats. Sadly, they were defeated by Republicans and Democrats alike.
The Open Technology Institute supported the proposed Amendment as a way to ensure and require “that the government obtains a warrant before searching for Americans’ communications in databases containing Section 702 information so that it applies to all agencies and all searches.” Robyn Greene, Policy Counsel, and Government Affairs Lead for OTI stated, “The warrant requirement in the bill has exceptions that are so broad there is a concern they could swallow the rule. As the House continues to debate this bill, members should focus on expanding and strengthening the requirement that the government obtains a warrant before searching Section 702 data for Americans’ communications.” Showing that though some changes have been made, she also stated, “The House Judiciary Committee just approved a bill that contains a number of important reforms, including ending ‘abouts’ collection and increasing transparency,” and that the road ahead to ensure that 4th Amendment protections were upheld is still rocky.
The Constitution and its Amendments were written to expressly limit government’s ability to unreasonably interfere with its citizen’s lives and to affirm inherit rights we are born with, that are protected from, not given by, the government. We have the right to privacy. As it is currently written, there is no “liberty” in this bill, nor does it stand for the spirit the USA was founded upon. I would encourage everyone to reach out to their elected officials and have a serious talk about your rights and to ensure they have those in mind.
When such measures pass, it is all the easier for government to further erode the rights of its people. Like many other things, even for the “best of intentions” or for temporary measures, the US government continues to grow and trample the rights of its people, instead of safeguarding liberty. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
READ FULL LANGUAGE OF THE ACT HERE: