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Don’t be surprised when Garland is used as an excuse to renew the Patriot Act

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Supporters of the NSA’s domestic spying programs say that a vast data collection effort is needed more than ever to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, but they are unable to point to any specific example of foiled terrorist plots through these unconstitutional, privacy-violating programs.

In June 2013, Gen. Keith Alexander, then the Director of the NSA, claimed that the spying programs prevented “potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.” Testifying before a Senate committee in October of the same year, Alexander backtracked after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) grilled him for misleading the American public.

Spy

“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. “These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all foiled. Would you agree with that, yes or no?” he asked the NSA chief.

Alexander, realizing he had been put on the spot for peddling misinformation, simply replied, “Yes.”

Of course Alexander was more honest than his colleague, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who lied about the NSA domestic surveillance program in a March 2013 Senate hearing. He was accused of perjury, although the allegation went nowhere in a Congress filled with pro-surveillance members.

Two government panels – President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – have since determined that NSA’s domestic spying programs have not played a role in thwarting terrorist attacks.

The attack on Sunday evening in Garland, Texas at the “Draw Muhammad” event hosted by an anti-Islam organization will undoubtedly be used as a reason to reauthorize a soon-to-expire provision, Section 215, of the USA PATRIOT Act by which the federal government claims the vast authority to spy on Americans.

But such claims should be met with a large dose of skepticism. One of the suspects involved in the attack had already come across the FBI’s radar. The United States’ top law enforcement agency began investigating him in 2006 on the suspicion that he wanted to join a terrorist group in Somalia.

The alleged attacker lied to federal authorities. He was convicted in 2010 of making false statements and sentenced to three years of probation. He was, however, able to avoid being placed on the “no-fly” list.

The alleged attackers in Garland are precisely are the needle for which the federal government claims that it needs the haystack, and intelligence and law enforcement officials failed to prevent what could have been a mass murder.

The NSA’s resources are spread too thin. Collecting the phone calls of virtually every American – the proverbial “haystack” – even if the people on the call are not suspected of any terrorist involvement, not only betrays the constitutionally protected rights defined by the Fourth Amendment, but also makes Americans less safe because intelligence agencies may not be able to connect the dots efficiently and effectively.

Rather than using the Garland attack as tool to further reauthorization of Section 215, which expires on June 1, lawmakers should seriously reexamine the approach to intelligence, requiring agencies like the NSA to focus on actual terrorism suspects as opposed to innocent Americans calling their families and friends.

Libertarians Cheer New “Surveillance State Repeal Act”

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Two congressmen have introduced bold bipartisan legislation that will fully repeal the police-state 2001 U.S. PATRIOT Act and substantially roll back the U.S. surveillance state that has metastasized in recent years.

Repeal the Surveillance StateThe Surveillance State Repeal Act (H.R. 1466) was introduced on March 24 by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), and it offers a great opportunity for Americans to restore lost liberty and privacy in one swoop.

“The warrantless collection of millions of personal communications from innocent Americans is a direct violation of our constitutional right to privacy,” said Rep. Pocan. “Revelations about the NSA’s programs reveal the extraordinary extent to which the program has invaded Americans’ privacy.

“I reject the notion that we must sacrifice liberty for security — we can live in a secure nation which also upholds a strong commitment to civil liberties. This legislation ends the NSA’s dragnet surveillance practices, while putting provisions in place to protect the privacy of American citizens through real and lasting change.”

“The Patriot Act contains many provisions that violate the Fourth Amendment and have led to a dramatic expansion of our domestic surveillance state,” said Rep. Massie. “Our Founding Fathers fought and died to stop the kind of warrantless spying and searches that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act authorize. It is long past time to repeal the Patriot Act and reassert the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

Libertarians and other defenders of civil liberties have cheered the bill.

The Surveillance State Repeal Act will:

  1. Repeal the 2001 U.S. PATRIOT Act, which among other things contains the telephone metadata harvesting provision by which the NSA has justified collecting phone information on millions of Americans.
  2. Repeal the FISA Amendments Act (which contains the email harvesting provision), with the exception of the provisions regarding FISA court reporting and WMD intelligence collection.
  3. Protect whistleblowers: Make retaliation against federal national security whistleblowers illegal and provide for the termination of individuals who engage in such retaliation.
  4. Ensure that any FISA collection against a U.S. Person takes place only pursuant to a valid warrant based on probable cause (which was the original FISA standard from 1978 to 2001).
  5. Retain the ability for government surveillance capabilities to be targeted against a specific natural person, regardless of the type of communications method(s) or device(s) being used by the subject of the surveillance.
  6. Retain provisions in current law dealing with the acquisition of intelligence information involving weapons of mass destruction from entities not composed primarily of U.S. Persons.
  7. Prohibit the government from mandating that electronic device or software manufacturers build in so-called “back doors” to allow the government to bypass encryption or other privacy technology built into said hardware and/or software.
  8. Increase the terms of judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) from seven to ten years and allows their reappointment.
  9. Mandate that the FISC utilize technologically competent Special Masters (technical and legal experts) to help determine the veracity of government claims about privacy, minimization and collection capabilities employed by the U.S. government in FISA applications.
  10. Mandate that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regularly monitor such domestic surveillance programs for compliance with the law, including responding to Member requests for investigations and whistleblower complaints of wrongdoing.
  11. Explicitly ban the use of Executive Order 12333 as a way of collecting bulk data, which pertains to the collection and storage of communications by U.S. Persons.

Make no mistake: The bill faces an uphill battle in Congress. FreedomWorks chair Matt Kibbe called upon its 6.9 million members to fight for the bill, and created a web page where supporters of the bill can easily email this message to their representatives.

Libertarian Party chair Nicholas Sarwark called on all Americans who love liberty to create a grassroots campaign to support the Surveillance State Repeal Act, to contact their congressmen and women and urge them to support H.R. 1466, and to spread this message through social media and whatever other means possible.

In fact, Sarwick’s only complaint was that the bill, sweeping though it is, doesn’t go far enough.

“The Libertarian Party would like to see all aspects of government mass surveillance ended, including complete elimination of the secret FISA court whose work issuing warrants for terrorist and criminal suspects can be easily assumed by existing federal courts,” said Sarwark. “But this bill is a good first step.”

GOP Denounces NSA Spying as Unconstitutional; Calls for Repeal, Investigation

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Hey: the Republican Party National Committee has gone all Edward Snowden on us.

In what TIME magazine calls “the latest indication of a growing libertarian wing of the GOP,” the Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a Resolution on January 24 calling for Republicans in Congress to conduct a public investigation into the “gross infringement” of Americans’ rights by National Security Agency programs and to repeal much of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance programs on Americans.

The “Resolution to Renounce the National Security Agency’s Surveillance Program” denounces what it called the “largest surveillance effort ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens… the surveillance of U.S. citizens on a vast scale and [the monitoring of the] searching habits of virtually every American on the internet…”

The remarkable document, while not binding on any GOP member, passed by an overwhelming majority voice vote.

The Resolution boldly declares that “the mass collection and retention of personal data is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution” and says “unwarranted government surveillance is an intrusion on basic human rights that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society and this [PRISM] program represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy and goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act…”

Further, the Republican National Committee “encourages Republican lawmakers to enact legislation to amend Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make it clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity, phone records and correspondence — electronic, physical, and otherwise — of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court…” and they urge Republican lawmakers “to call for a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying…”

This committee, says the RNC, “should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance as well as hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance…”

Good stuff! And there’s more. You can read the whole Resolution at TIME’s web site.

However, you’d also be wise to be skeptical, as journalist John Glaser astutely notes at Reason.com’s blog. After all, reminds Glaser, this is “the party that stood by President George W. Bush when he secretly (and illegally) ordered the NSA to spy on the domestic communications of Americans without any warrants at all.”