The USA Liberty Act has now in fact passed in the House Judiciary Committee by the vote count of 27-8. Congressman Justin Amash mentioned that every privacy advocate should have concerns about the outweighing support the bill is getting from Congress.
“The Liberty Act passed committee 27-8. It allows the government to search our private data without a warrant—in violation of the 4th Amendment,” Justin Amash said on Twitter. “It’s another bill, like the Freedom Act, that furthers violations of our rights under the guise of protecting our rights.”
The #LibertyAct passed committee 27-8. It allows the government to search our private data without a warrant—in violation of the #4thAmendment. It’s another bill, like the #FreedomAct, that furthers violations of our rights under the guise of protecting our rights.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) November 8, 2017
As implied by Amash, the USA Liberty Act is actually providing the opposite of ‘Liberty’ for Americans. Instead of liberty, the purpose of this legislation is in order to make additional loopholes for Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and re-authorize it, which is due to expire on December 31st of 2017.
Also, Amash notes the USA Liberty Act is just another bill that ‘furthers violations of our rights under the guise of protecting our rights.’ He compared the legislation to the USA Freedom Act, which had passed under similar circumstances during June of 2015.
The House Judiciary Committee has also attempted to utilize the USA Freedom Act as reference to the bill’s success, claiming the bill ‘ended the bulk collection of data, protected civil liberties and national security, and provided robust oversight and transparency of our vital national security tools.’
Although,The Free Thought Project had reported in May of 2015, that the USA Freedom Act ‘doesn’t actually end or suspend the phone records program, but simply requires phone companies to hold onto these records rather than the NSA.’ For the first time ever it also authorized, ‘the NSA, FBI, and other government agencies to unconstitutionally collect data in bulk on potentially millions of law-abiding Americans,” and it let the NSA collect “cell phone records in addition to the landline call records.’
As Congress now plans to pass the USA Liberty Act, it’s claiming the legislation would ‘better protect Americans’ privacy’ and requiring the government to have ‘a legitimate national security purpose’ before searching the database’s of an individual. But what this bill isn’t advertising is the fact it doesn’t actually address the legitimate issues that exist within Section 702. The ‘legitimate national security purpose’ reasons given by the FBI could be justified by pretty much any reason they choose to give. Furthermore, agents will only need supervisory authority in order to begin searching an Americans’ metadata.
Just weeks before the most recent vote, over 40 organizations, including the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, joined together and sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, and condemned the USA Liberty Act.
The coalition made note that this bill fails in addressing serious concerns about the ‘backdoor search loophole,’ which will allow the government to ‘conduct warrant-less searches for the information of individuals who are not targets of Section 702, including U.S. citizens and residents.’
The USA Liberty Act departs from the recommendation made by the President’s Review Group on Surveillance, appropriations amendments that have previously passed the House, and urgings of civil society organizations, which would have required a probable cause warrant prior to searching the Section 702 database for information about a U.S. citizen or resident absent narrow exceptions.
As written, it raises several concerns. First, the bill’s most glaring deficiency is that it does not require a warrant to access content in cases where the primary purpose is to return foreign intelligence. This is an exception that threatens to swallow the rule.
An analysis of the bill by the Electronic Freedom Foundation notes that the USA Liberty Act doesn’t ‘institute adequate transparency and oversight measures,’ it doesn’t ‘deal with misuse of the state secrets privilege, which has been invoked to stave off lawsuits against mass surveillance,” and most importantly, it will not “curtail the NSA’s practices of collecting data on innocent people.’
The science that surrounds the USA Liberty Act isn’t anything new—one example is the time the USA Patriot Act passed because of fear-based propaganda during the year 2001. The US government has used names that are trendy, such as ‘Liberty’ and ‘Freedom’ as a way to appeal, while working with mainstream media to politicize every and any tragic attack, as a way to convince the American public that they should be willing to give up their liberties, in order to ensure security temporarily.
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.