Commentary by Freeman, May 14, 2015 •
Last week a federal appellate court found that the NSA spying program goes beyond what Congress authorized in § 215 of the Patriot Act. Then yesterday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved, without amendment, the USA Freedom Act by a vote of 338 – 88. Hold your applause, please.
While the alleged intent of the bill is to prohibit the NSA from warrantless collection of bulk metadata (phone records, emails, and Web addresses), the Patriot Act is also up for re-authorization at the end of this month, and there are still congressional forces determined to extend the unconstitutional mass surveillance project for another five years. Fourth Amendment be damned.
Under the proposed Freedom Act, telecoms and data companies will store private information, and the NSA would need to get an old-school court order for access. That’s a good thing, in theory. It would be a better thing if the restriction explicitly applied to all federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, such as the FBI, ATF, DHS, CIA, etc.
The measure also proposes to limit NSA record requests to “specific selection terms,” whatever that means. The Senate, which gets the bill next, would do well to specifically debate what that language constitutes.
What we think it should mean is targeting specific bad guys who show probable cause, such as those conspiring with groups, either foreign or domestic, that have declared war on America. There are plenty of them in the country, or so the people in favor of bulk surveillance tell us. Except they can’t tell us how they know because that would be a breach of national security. Of course.
This in turn begs the question of who gets to determine who is a threat and who is not. A clandestine FISA court? DHS? Political appointees at the IRS? Barack Obama? Here’s a guy that would have you believe the Islamic State is neither Islamic nor terrorist; they’re just deprived and misunderstood.
And yet all of the president’s political enemies—more than half of all America—are on one list or another, designated “potential domestic terror threats” by everyone from the Army War College to the Department of Homeland Security.
The Tea Party, military veterans, Oath Keepers, conservatives, Christians, libertarians, even Ron Paul phone bank workers, have all been demonized by the Obama administration’s unelected security apparatchiks.
This is transparency? This is oversight? This is freedom? Whatever political name you choose to give it, we have a long way to go before we can call it ‘reform.’
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