By Janet Phelan
It may be time to dust off your telephone and reassert your rights. At this writing, any remnant of your freedom and privacy is under massive attack–not by a terrorist group but by your official representatives.
The House of Representatives has passed a surveillance reauthorization bill H.R.6172 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020 which cements and continues FBI surveillance on US citizens.
The bill reauthorizes Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which is the section that the spy agencies have cited to allow their collection of phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans. This controversial program was reportedly discontinued by the NSA in 2015; however, the spying on American citizens through electronic devices has persisted. H.R. 6172 would reauthorize three provisions for continued spying: 1) The roving wiretap, which allows the spy agencies to tap multiple phones and devices of a target 2) the business records provision, which allows the FBI to compel companies to turn over customer information without a warrant and 3) the “lone wolf” provision, which allows the tapping of a target who has no ostensible connections to terrorist organizations.
While H.R. 6172 is being touted as a “reform” effort, careful scrutiny of its provisions indicates that the “reforms” are thin to non-existent.
For example, the bill promises “due process” for those targeted with surveillance. According to this stipulation, targets would receive notice and an opportunity to protest via the courts.
However, the bill states that the due process rights do not apply in a situation of national security. And as all FISA matters are considered to be national security, the absurdity of this alleged reform becomes apparent.
The FISA court was established in 1979 and has to date reportedly received over 40,000 applications for surveillance authority. All but a small fraction–1%–have been granted.
Unlike the sunset clauses in the original PATRIOT Act, which allowed for the expiration of these authorities, H.R. 6172 makes them permanent. The ACLU has provided a one page summary of the bill One Page Summary of Conference Report on Patriot Act Reauthorization.
H.R. 6172 now moves to the Senate,