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ALERT: Congress Passes Bill Granting “Unlimited Access To Private Communications Of Every American”

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Congress just passed the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2015 – consequently the same day a report came out about the CIA’s malicious use of torture on ‘detainees.’

H.R. 4681, funds intelligence agency programs for 2014 and 2015 but that’s not all it does says Michigan Congressman Justin Amash.

In a letter to the legislature urging his colleagues to vote no on the bill, Amash describes the Act as a piece of legislation that “grants government and law enforcement unlimited access to the communications of every American.”

The bill was rushed to the House floor with virtually no debate and was passed via ‘voice vote’ only, 325-100.

The private communications of Americans can now be scooped up without a court order and then transferred to law enforcement for criminal investigations. This effectively codifies and legalizes mass warrantless NSA surveillance on the American people.

Amash described the provision as “one of the most egregious sections of law [he has] encountered during [his] time as a representative”.

Read his full letter to Congress:

Dear Colleague:

The intelligence reauthorization bill, which the House will vote on today, contains a troubling new provision that for the first time statutorily authorizes spying on U.S. citizens without legal process.

Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of the intelligence reauthorization bill with a new Sec. 309—one the House never has considered. Sec. 309 authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of nonpublic communications, including those to and from U.S. persons. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.

To be clear, Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena. The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.

Supporters of Sec. 309 claim that the provision actually reins in the executive branch’s power to retain Americans’ private communications. It is true that Sec. 309 includes exceedingly weak limits on the executive’s retention of Americans’ communications. With many exceptions, the provision requires the executive to dispose of Americans’ communications within five years of acquiring them—although, as HPSCI admits, the executive branch already follows procedures along these lines.

In exchange for the data retention requirements that the executive already follows, Sec. 309 provides a novel statutory basis for the executive branch’s capture and use of Americans’ private communications. The Senate inserted the provision into the intelligence reauthorization bill late last night. That is no way for Congress to address the sensitive, private information of our constituents—especially when we are asked to expand our government’s surveillance powers.

I urge you to join me in voting “no” on H.R. 4681, the intelligence reauthorization bill, when it comes before the House today.

/s/

Justin Amash
Member of Congress

Other parts of the bill contain provisions appropriating funds for the construction of the High Performance Computing Center 2, the NSA’s $860 Million Data Center in Maryland.(Section 302) – And “exempts from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act the identities of employees of the intelligence community who submit complaints or information to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.” (Section 303)