The original cosponsor of the USA Freedom Act voted against the gutted version of the bill today. As I broke down in an earlier post here, the present bill is barely does anything to protect Americans against the NSA’s spying program. It also extends Section 215 of the Patriot Act to 2017. The section was set to expire in June of next year.
Justin Amash took to his Facebook page (as he usually does) to state his displeasure:
Today, I will vote no on #HR3361, the #USAFREEDOMAct.
I am an original cosponsor of the Freedom Act, and I was involved in its drafting. At its best, the Freedom Act would have reined in the government’s unconstitutional domestic spying programs, ended the indiscriminate collection of Americans’ private records, and made the secret FISA court function more like a real court—with real arguments and real adversaries.
I was and am proud of the work our group, led by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, did to promote this legislation, as originally drafted.
However, the revised bill that makes its way to the House floor this morning doesn’t look much like the Freedom Act.
This morning’s bill maintains and codifies a large-scale, unconstitutional domestic spying program. It claims to end “bulk collection” of Americans’ data only in a very technical sense: The bill prohibits the government from, for example, ordering a telephone company to turn over all its call records every day.
But the bill was so weakened in behind-the-scenes negotiations over the last week that the government still can order—without probable cause—a telephone company to turn over all call records for “area code 616″ or for “phone calls made east of the Mississippi.” The bill green-lights the government’s massive data collection activities that sweep up Americans’ records in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The bill does include a few modest improvements to current law. The secret FISA court that approves government surveillance must publish its most significant opinions so that Americans can have some idea of what surveillance the government is doing. The bill authorizes (but does not require) the FISA court to appoint lawyers to argue for Americans’ privacy rights, whereas the court now only hears from one side before ruling.
But while the original version of the Freedom Act allowed Sec. 215 of the Patriot Act to expire in June 2015, this morning’s bill extends the life of that controversial section for more than two years, through 2017.
I thank Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte for pursuing surveillance reform. I respect Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Rep. John Conyers for their work on this issue.
It’s shameful that the president of the United States, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the leaders of the country’s surveillance agencies refuse to accept consensus reforms that will keep our country safe while upholding the Constitution. And it mocks our system of government that they worked to gut key provisions of the Freedom Act behind closed doors.
The American people demand that the Constitution be respected, that our rights and liberties be secured, and that the government stay out of our private lives. Fortunately, there is a growing group of representatives on both sides of the aisle who get it. In the 10 months since I proposed the Amash Amendment to end mass surveillance, we’ve made big gains.
We will succeed.