Last week, ICUJP endorsed the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which was introduced by Rep. Rush Holt on March 18 to the 113th Congress.
The Surveillance State Repeal Act proposes repealing the PATRIOT Act, FISA Amendments Act and making widespread reforms to the way our government collects and uses data.
“It [The Surveillance State Repeal Act] deserves full Congressional support.”
-- NYT ed board, Sep. 21, 2013
Over the past few years, revelations regarding our government’s overreaching surveillance activities have alarmed Americans everywhere. One of those provisions – Section 215 – has been used for years by the National Security Agency to collect the domestic phone records of millions of innocent, law-abiding Americans. On June 1, 2015 three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act are set to expire and Congress will likely consider related legislation, making this issue even timelier.
According to press reports, all Americans are subject to the collection of phone call metadata, the harvesting of To, From and Bcc data, the blanket targeting of encrypted emails or encrypted “cloud storage” data repositories, and the targeting of anyone using Tor (an online anonymization capability). And this includes the communications of constituents with Members of Congress. We have also learned that for years the NSA has been pressuring software and hardware manufacturers to deliberately weaken commercial encryption technology in order to facilitate NSA’s surveillance operations. In doing so, NSA has made us all more vulnerable to hacking by criminals, and made it easier for foreign intelligence services to exploit these built-in encryption vulnerabilities.
When Congress approved the PATRIOT Act, and later, the FISA Amendments Act, each contained key sunset provisions to allow for the review of those sweeping laws to see if they were truly working and whether or not the civil liberties of Americans were being properly protected. Each time these laws came up for renewal, House members were assured the programs were working and the rights of Americans were not being violated.
As we’ve learned since June 2013, those assurances were not only false, but key information on unconstitutional abuses of these powers was withheld from virtually all House members, including during the debates on extending the sunset dates of these laws. It is time for Congress to act to end these abuses.
We need a full scale repeal of both of these laws to allow for a truly thoughtful reconsideration of how we responsibly protect our nation from real threats while ensuring that the constitutional rights of all Americans remain sacrosanct.
The Surveillance State Repeal Act would:
- Repeal the PATRIOT Act (which contains the telephone metadata harvesting provision).
- 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.
- Makes retaliation against federal national security whistleblowers illegal and provides for the termination of individuals who engage in such retaliation.
- Ensure that any FISA collection against a US 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 US 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 bans the use of Executive Order 12333 as a way of collecting bulk data
This debate is not a choice between safety and civil liberties. The Fourth Amendment makes us safer by making the enforcers prove that they know what they are doing, rather than chasing unsubstantiated suspicions through dragnet surveillance. Furthermore, American consumers and businesses should be able to buy digital encryption and other digital privacy technology that is robust and uncompromised by the federal government to help protect their personal privacy and their sensitive business transactions.
Restoration of a true probable cause-based warrant requirement for surreptitiously tracking American citizens allegedly involved in criminal activity is vital. And we must ensure that those seeking to report abuses of those powers can do so safely and securely. Our government must do what the Founders intended: treat all Americans as citizens first, not suspects. To cosponsor this legislation, please contact Alicia Molt in my office at [email protected].
ICUJP is proud to join the following organizations in sponsoring this legislations
On the national level: FreedomWorks, CREDO, Campaign For Liberty, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Demand Progress, Coalition for Peace Action, Defending Dissent Foundation, Restore the Fourth, National Libertarian Party, Media Alliance, Rights Working Group, We Are OneAmerica, Government Accountability Project, Code Pink, X-Lab, U.S. Labor Against the War, National Lawyers Guild, United for Peace & Justice.
On the regional level: Stop NYPD Spying Coalition (NY), Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MD), Cleveland Immigrant Support Network (OH), Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights (IL), OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology (AR), Dallas Peace Center (TX), Bay Area Civil Liberties Coalition (CA), Neighborhood UU Church of Pasadena (CA), Libertas Institute (UT), Friends of the Constitution (WA)