The USA Not-So-Much Liberty Act Passes House Committee
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved the USA Liberty Act to move to the House floor. The act reaffirms the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Sec. 702, which allows for communication surveillance of non-U.S. residents.
What failed to pass was an amendment that would protect American citizens from warrantless searches and seizure of communication with non-U.S. residents. The amendment was a bipartisan effort lead by Ted Poe (R-Tex.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) who argued the amendment would safeguard constitutional rights 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 also supported the proposed amendment. 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 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 obtain 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 Fourth 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 citizens lives and to affirm inherent rights 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 embody the spirit on which the USA was founded. I would encourage everyone to reach out to their elected officials and have a serious talk about your rights and to ensure they vote with 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.”