Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Prevent Future Government Spying

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On the heels of the Associated Press hacking scandal, wherein the Justice Department revealed its utter lack of regard for the 1st and 4th Amendments and justified its actions through post-9/11 “national security” policies, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers has introduced legislation to prevent the government from engaging in secret warrantless phone hacking in the future.

Representatives Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) presented the Telephone Records Protection Act, HR 2014, in the lower Congressional chamber last week. The bill would require government investigators to attain the approval of a court any time they demand telephone records from service providers.

Current law dictates that the government can subpoena communication records unilaterally by way of what is known as an administrative subpoena, which is how the Justice Department seized the private information of dozens of AP reporters while investigating leaks from the CIA.

The Justice Department’s seizure of the AP’s phone records — likely without the sign-off of a single judge — raises serious 1st and 4th Amendment concerns.

“Regardless of whether DOJ violates the legitimate privacy expectations of reporters or ordinary Americans, we deserve to know that the Federal government can’t seize our records without judicial review,” Amash said.

Further vexing privacy advocates, it has also been reported that Justice Investigators not only pulled information from communication devices directly tied to AP, but also from cellphones — personal and work-related — belonging to the reporters it was investigating.

“I was honestly surprised to learn that the government could get this sort of private, personal information without a court order. If that is indeed the law, as the Department of Justice insists that it is, then the law needs to change,” Mulvaney said. “I am more than willing to acknowledge that there may be times that the government needs access to this sort of information. That being said, if the case in favor of acquiring this information is so compelling, it seems a requirement that the government get a court order should be no impediment to the conduct of a valid government investigation.”

The Telephone Records Protection Act would require the government to state “specific and articulable facts” to prove before a court that the information sought is “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

For now, Verizon, the telecom company that provided the government with much of the information it requested in the AP hacking case, has not commented on whether the current controversy will encourage a change in its policy with regard to how much information it is willing to provide government investigators without a court order.

The lawmakers’ bill would address a sobering reality that journalists are being forced to face as the hacking scandal remains in the spotlight. With developments in government “national security” policy in the years since 9/11, including language in the National Defense Authorization Act promising indefinite detention of citizens who associate with people the government deems terrorists, there no longer remains a way for journalists to provide the public with a complete story about individuals who find themselves on the wrong side of government without fearing for their own well-being.

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • rb

    When the Patriot Act was first enacted there were a number of flags raised as to the absolute power that was being given to the Exucutive Branch at the time. Once again it is the willingness of “the people” to give up their freedoms in exchange for so called safety that kept the cry from getting too loud. Everyone “trusted” then President Bush not to abuse the power given by these laws and knew full well any President following could quickly decide to use these powers in dictatorial fashion. It did n’t take long. It is extremely important for us as Americans to not accept this garbage any more. Not only does this administration need to finally be taken to task for its many offenses against our Constitution, we need some answers from members of Congress who willingly participated in some of this. Let’s get a straight answer from Senator Carl Levin on why he was part of the IRS scandal harassing certain groups that may disagree with the administrations or the Senator’s views. Let’s have an independent investigator look into not only the White House but the Senate and House of Reprisentatives. This thing goes deep! It’s now or never. If we the people can’t stand up now we will be silenced for good in short order.

  • Warrior

    With this “regime”, nobody knows how anything happens. It just does! Some 21st Century “leadership” eh?

  • TeaParty Patriot (TTP)

    .

    Since this regime and previous ones have already broken the laws what good is passing new laws prohibiting the same actions. If the government is gonna ignore the constitution then they sure as hell are not gonna pay any attention to congressional laws.

  • Michael Shreve

    Many of the “National Security” laws are BLATANTLY unconstitutional, but the courts have ALWAYS bee reluctant to block them.

  • Michael Shreve

    Many of the “National Security” laws are BLATANTLY unconstitutional, but the courts have ALWAYS bee reluctant to block them. Unfortunately, WE THE PEOPLE have ACCEPTED these abuses as NECESSARY. Those who surrender liberty for security end up with neither.

  • vicki

    From the article:

    ” If that is indeed the law, as the Department of Justice insists that it is, then the law needs to change,”

    What’s the matter. Didn’t they READ THE BILLS before they voted on them?
    https://secure.downsizedc.org/etp/rtba/

    Don’t make a new law, enforce the Supreme LAW of the land. (See Amendments 1,4)

  • jason

    just stop working people shut down the government let them know who,s boss stop working get on welfare and tell the government to f off if unemployment is at 99% the government cant steal your money and they don’t get paid peacefull goverment overthrow