Action Alert: Freedom at Risk Through Surveillance Reauthorization Bill

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, where it is scheduled for a vote early next week. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support, 278-136.

There is mounting opposition to the bill, as the spy agencies and civil libertarians collide. The House Freedom Caucus has issued a statement that it condemns this bill. House Freedom Caucus on Twitter Senator Rand Paul has objected to the very concept of spying on American citizens and has suggested that these matters be moved to a transparent Article 3 court. ‘Weak sauce’: Rand Paul slams deal to extend spy law.

Trump has indicated he may veto the bill. However, AG William Barr has stated his support for the bill.

More and more Americans are being impacted by the surveillance net. Journalists – I’m a Journalist. Why Did I End Up on an FBI Terrorist Watch List?, government whistleblowers – The Trump Administration Is Using the Full Power of the U.S. Surveillance State Against Whistleblowers and many others are now being tapped and surveilled. Due to this watchlisting, other arenas of a target’s life are impacted. Watchlisted individuals may have difficulty in a number of areas, including employment, financial transactions, receiving medical attention and more – Social Credit Comes to US Shores: Consumers Denied Services Based on Shadowy “Security Ratings” – Activist Post. And the numbers of Americans who are surveilled and watchlisted keeps expanding.

For those concerned that this spying reauthorization bill is providing another building block in the creation of a permanent and top heavy surveillance state, it is suggested that at this time you may want to contact your US Senator and air your concerns. U.S. Senate: Contacting The Senate. You may also wish to contact President Trump and express your thinking on a veto. The phone number for the White House comment line is 202-456-1111.

We do have a representative form of government and contacting your representatives now is your best bet to impact the vote. What is at stake is the future of freedom, which is rapidly swirling down the bowl.

Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking exposé, EXILE. Her articles previously appeared in such mainstream venues as the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, Long Beach Press Telegram, etc. In 2004, Janet “jumped ship” and now exclusively writes for independent media. She is also the author of two collections of poetry—The Hitler Poems and Held Captive. She resides abroad. You are invited to support her work on Buy Me A Coffee here:

Image credit: ACLU

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