By: Michael Clayton
Seemingly lost in the fold because of all the mess regarding Obamacare, last week, lawmakers introduced legislation to curtail the National Security Agency’s overreaching phone record collection program. The USA Freedom Act, as it is being touted, is a bipartisan effort authored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). Of course, back in 2001, both men were supporters of the Patriot Act, and Sensenbrenner himself authored the now infamous legislation, which is the ultimate culprit of this whole surveillance mess we now find ourselves in. What caused these men to change their tune? In a recent Op-ed for Politico, the two men wrote: “we strongly agree that the dragnet collection of millions of Americans’ phone records every day—whether they have any connection at all to terrorism—goes far beyond what Congress envisioned or intended to authorize.”
Back in July, following the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden, Congress voted on the Amash-Conyers Amendment, which was based on the LIBERT-E Act. Also a bipartisan effort and the first legislation regarding NSA reforms, it narrowly failed to pass the U.S. House by a 205-217 vote. Without a doubt, this vote was closer than many establishment-types anticipated and proved that many representatives in both parties are highly-skeptical of the NSA’s domestic spying programs. The authors of this initial legislation, Justin Amash (R-MI) and John Conyers (D-MI), have both signed on as co-sponsors to this new bill, with Amash saying, “The days of unfettered spying on the American people are numbered…This is the bill the public has been waiting for.”
With new stories of the NSA’s tyrannical surveillance programs coming to light seemingly every day, the call for reforms has arguably never been greater. “National security” does not justify violations of our 4th Amendment rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. Sadly, as what is touted as “National Defense” has seemingly turned into “National Offense,” privacy has taken a back seat to big government and special interests abroad. We all know the Benjamin Franklin quote, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Yet, giving up essential liberties to obtain safety is exactly what we have done.
The 4th Amendment was written because the colonists were tired of an intrusive British government, so our Founding Fathers determined there needed to be probable cause and search warrant with a specific list of what or who was to be seized. The NSA, with the help of the FISA court, has completely thrown the 4th Amendment and the Constitution out the window. By collecting data on every American possible, the federal government is building a criminal case against all of us, whether we have ever done anything wrong or not. This could not be any further removed from the original intentions of the great men who founded this country.
Although the bill does not address many key issues involved in protecting our private lives against NSA surveillance, the USA Freedom Act would take a first step toward restricting the bulk collection of records. It is certainly better than a bill in the making by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), which would give the NSA “explicit authority” to mass data collection.
In conclusion, we must continue to push against the NSA intrusion into our lives. The Founding Fathers believed that citizens needed to be active in order to hold the federal government in check. We must stay committed to protecting the outstanding liberties that our Constitution guarantees us, because the federal government is constantly looking for ways to snatch them away. Campaign for Liberty will continue to work to repeal the PATRIOT Act, eliminate the FISA courts, and repeal all unconstitutional infringements on our liberties.
Tags: NSA, civil liberties, USA Freedom Act, privacy, Amash, NSA Surveillance, Leahy, NSA Reform, LIBERT-E Act, Amash amendment, sensenbrenner, conyers