(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.
The 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Protect whistleblowers: Make retaliation against federal national security whistleblowers illegal and provide for the termination of individuals who engage in such retaliation.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Increase the terms of judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) from seven to ten years and allows their reappointment.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”