The Senate just advanced reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a part of the law designed to monitor foreign communications that violate the Fourth Amendment. Set to expire Friday, this part of FISA allows the warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens through backdoor loopholes.
First enacted in 1978 during the Cold War to gather intelligence in the interest of national security, FISA has now become the free pass for the U.S. government to spy on its own citizens. The government has conceded that the communication data of Americans living overseas might be collected under “incidental collection.” Simply put, as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., stated on Fox Business’ "Kennedy" show, this is “a bedrock constitutional principle.”
But it gets worse. Under revelations from Edward Snowden, the world was shocked to learn that not only is the United States government collecting information on Americans abroad, but on millions of citizens at home as well.
Let’s use “Jim” as an example. Jim is under surveillance by the federal government.
In a crooked game of six degrees of separation, spying on “suspect Jim” leads to Martha, Martha leads to Jenny, and Jenny leads to Roger even though Roger may be a teenager in rural Wisconsin who has never, and will never, know “suspect Jim.” In this hypothetical, all of these people are being actively spied on. Their emails, webcams, Amazon Echos, Google Homes, Snapchats, and Tinders — every aspect of their life is a click away from the federal government. Are our elected officials really okay with this?
In a 60-38 vote, the Washington establishment rammed through FISA reauthorization with no real dialogue, debate, or amendment process. The most bizarre case of lobbyists' power was on display this week as leaders of the so-called #Resistance effort against President Trump ceded more power to the president. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., both had opportunities to stop warrantless spying on Americans citizens. Instead, they chose to give the executive branch, who they claim to be reckless and out of control, limitless power to spy on Americans. Welcome to Washington, D.C.
For years we have been told there are elected officials who respect privacy and civil liberties, yet when it was time to step up and prove it, just 8 Republicans and 30 Democrats stepped up to defend the Constitution. Forty-one Republicans and 19 Democrats shirked their responsibility to the public and tore the 4th Amendment to shreds.
It is a mistake to reauthorize a law that directly violates the Fourth Amendment and further emboldens the government to overstep its authority. As millennials, we are a digital generation and under these unconstitutional surveillance laws, we have the least amount of privacy. If you take a moment to think about it, everything we do is on our smartphones; our digital devices are fathomless pools of data including emails, text messages, and call records that should not be accessible without a federal warrant.
I stand in agreement with Paul and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and say the government should not be able to search Americans' data without a warrant.
It is the job of Congress to uphold the Constitution, not blatantly violate it. The USA Rights Act, proposed by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., calls for an end to "about collection" that allows the federal government to collect data “about” a target, and “reverse targeting” which allows for data collection on foreign targets for the purpose of accessing the data of the Americans they are in communication with.
Congress should be authorizing the USA Rights Act instead of reauthorizing a bill that violates our constitutional rights. Such actions on the part of our representatives raise the question: Does Congress represent defense lobbyists or the public?
Call your representative and senator and tell them to #GetAWarrant.
Cliff Maloney Jr. (@LibertyCliff) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the president of Young Americans for Liberty, a non-profit organization based in Arlington, Va., with more than 900 college chapters across the country.
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