NJ Congressman Rush Holt Is Attempting To Repeal The Patriot Act And FISA Amendments Act

from the incremental-improvement-is-off-the-table dept

Just recently, we discussed Rep. Justin Amash’s plan to defund the NSA through an amendment to the defense appropriations bill working its way through the House. At this point, I would normally say “following on the heels of that news,” but in this case, Rep. Steve Rush Holt!!! of New Jersey made his announcement on the 11th, while Amash’s arrived on the 15th.

Holt’s news? A plan to repeal two laws notorious for their encroachments on civil liberties.

Soon, I will introduce legislation that would repeal the laws that brought us our current “surveillance state”: the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. My bill would restore the probable cause-based warrant requirement for any surveillance against an American citizen being proposed on the basis of an alleged threat to the nation.

As a bonus, Holt is also proposing “genuine legal protections” for whistleblowers, a big step up from the current climate in which whistleblowers are persecuted and prosecuted.

Holt’s editorial/announcement, which appeared in the Asbury Park Press, details how the NSA collects and retains data without warrants, providing special “dispensation” for those who circumvent the normal routes.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, analyzing how the National Security Agency is apparently utilizing this data, said on its website: “In sum, if you use encryption they’ll keep your data forever. If you use Tor, they’ll keep your data for at least five years. If an American talks with someone outside the U.S., they’ll keep your data for five years. If you’re talking to your attorney, you don’t have any sense of privacy. And the NSA can hand over your information to the FBI for evidence of any crime, not just terrorism.

These two acts have resulted in agencies that are long on data and short on accountability. This situation is a direct result of administrations and legislators in thrall to a calculus of fear that has persuaded them to exchange liberty for safety despite being completely unable to guarantee their end of the bargain. Holt quotes Alexander Hamilton to make this point:

“Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”

And that’s where we are today — more than a decade removed from the event that resulted in the PATRIOT Act and seeing nothing but continual escalation and expansion of government incursion on our rights and privacy. Instead of spending the last 12 years attempting to find a balance, our elected officials (and the agencies under their purview) have chosen to see how far they could push before meeting resistance. Repealing these two laws completely may be excessive (or more negatively, impossible), but finding a balance is much easier when you start from a clean slate, rather than attempting to inch back miles of overreach until the scale settles.

Minor update: Eric Hellman points out that Rush Holt is in the middle of a Senate race, which means NJ voters have a chance to (somewhat indirectly) cast their vote on these two laws.

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Comments on “NJ Congressman Rush Holt Is Attempting To Repeal The Patriot Act And FISA Amendments Act”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I would argue that pocket nukes would be the correct response – a Constitutional Amendment barring an increase in executive and intelligence powers, and shrinking them to a much more moderate level.

Secondary to this, everyone in the NSA and the administration involved should be jailed for life without parole.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“They are unconstitutional. Complete eradication of those laws is the only way out. In fact they should have never come into effect in the first place.”

That’s simply not correct. PARTS of them are likely unconstitutional. But the Patriot Act did accomplish several things that needed doing, namely in streamlining the way various domestic and international agencies communicate intelligence with one another. Other parts of the Patriot Act include:

1. Giving the USAG authority to offer rewards to the public for information that stops terrorist plots

2. Changes in how aid money from VOCA can be more quickly distributed to the families of terrorism victims

3. Tighter controls on who can have certain equipment domestically, like hazmat suits, as well as grants for first responders and stricter punishments for anyone found laundering money for terrorist groups.

Now, a giant, menacing razor blade should indeed be taken to a large portion of the Patriot Act, but you don’t want to lose everything in there, trust me.


Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I understand that there may be some good parts in there. Much like SOPA had one or two insights in the middle of all the mud. However if the great majority of the bill was unconstitutional from the beginning it should have never been approved in the first place. Or it should have been shot down via judiciary.

I’m not sure if you can revoke parts of a law in place or if it could have been put in effect with a huge chunk of it vetoed or something. Regardless the laws as a whole are unconstitutional.

dataGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I normally like most of Dark Helmets posts but he is way off base on this one.

Just to keep this focused: how could you possible balance your three reasons for keeping this act (which boil down to the ease of moving money around for some), against the loss of liberty for everyone one in the country; including future generations?

We have gotten so use to Congress ignoring/ignorance of the constitution that we have been placated into not tar and feathering them within an inch of their lives….

They violate their oaths of office daily, if not by the hour. They have been doing this generations (but has really picked up steam starting in the 90’s). So the reality is, by continuing to vote for these idiots, the conversion of the ‘home of the free’ into the ‘home of the whiners’ is completely our fault.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You seem to think that I want to keep the entire Patriot Act intact. I don’t. I was responding to someone who said repeal the entire law. I don’t want that either.

It is possible, you know, for a law to be bad without being ALL bad. Keep the good bits, throw out the bad. It really ain’t that hard to understand if you can keep your emotions in check….

dataGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I got what you were saying. My point is the small amount of good you have pointed out is hardly even worth mentioning.

To frame it another way: your suggestion, that we try to surgically save the few little healthy cells from this massive flaming ball of cancer growing so large that is pushing us ever closer to the sun, is some we should all definitely get behind.

dataGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

As I said at the top, I usually really like your stuff so I don’t want to argue with you. My stuff on the other hand can seriously use an editor.

One last point, and I’ll let you move on to more useful activities: we will be very lucky to get even a tiny improvement in your liberties (in our lifetime). When dealing with congress keeping things as black and white as possible is important. So “Repeal the Patriot Act, Now” is more likely to have an impact than: “but don’t forget about the hazmat suits”.

Keep up the good work Dark Helmet!

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Look, if you want to repeal the Patriot Act entirely and replace it with the Dark Helmet Said This Shit Act Of 2013, in which intelligence agencies can still, you know, talk to each other, as well as the other provisions I mentioned, that’s fine by me too.

My point is that too many people think that the Patriot Act was all surveillance and nothing else, when that just wasn’t the case.

And to anyone who thinks the changes made to how agencies speak with one another and share information were of little consequence, they seem to forget the discussion about who knew how much that occurred directly after 9/11, when a TON of people knew the guys were in the country, were taking flight lessons, heard chatter, etc. etc. etc., except they never talked to one another….

dataGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Seems to me that improvement in information sharing was a key feature that sold us DHS.

As a layperson looking on from the outside, I see no signs that a decade of improved intelligence gathering has improved our lot in the least. I then balance that against the clear unmistakable fact that Americans have lost essential liberties that we are not likely to get back.

Not to mention that all these “improvements” will never give use perfect security. So I for one would, far and away, prefer more liberty and freedom than having the biggest daily intel report known to man.

anonymous says:

Re: Response to: Ninja on Jul 17th, 2013 @ 3:40am

Repealing these laws is one thing and necessary, but the abusive preidential administration and the intelligence agencies will continue to snub their now at the Constitution and our rights. So major cuts in funding to NSA and other agencies and to the federal Govt will limit their ability for tyranical actions.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The legislative branch created and voted on this law.
The executive branch did not veto and is enforcing it.
The judicial branch has interpreted it as the law.

Sorry. It may be a piece of shit but it is still the law.
In other words even with the checks and balances of the Constitution we can still end up with crap laws (Patriot act) being passed and enforced.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It won’t even make it that far. This bill is DOA. Most of congress, much less the president, have no desire to roll back and surrender power now that they’ve obtained it.

The best chance of getting these abusive laws reigned in is their constitutional challenge before the supreme court. Even then, I have my doubts whether they will do the right thing.

PopeRatzo (profile) says:

Re: Physicist

All Democrats. That makes you a dirty hippie and probably a communist, according to mainstream American political thought as expressed on the AM radio.

Heck, even most Democrats are hostile to actual Democrats. Today, you have to be a “pro-business Democrat” which means you don’t believe in workers’ right to organize unions and believe corporate lobbyists should write all the laws.

I’ll bet Rush Holt, Ron Wyden and Zoe Lofgren have to eat lunch at their own table in the Congressional cafeteria, and constantly have other congressmen knocking over their trays. Thomas Jefferson and FDR would weep.

Ellie (profile) says:

Re: Physicist Rush Holt

Rush Holt had finished his own education and started teaching when I started school at Swarthmore College. He was either an instructor or associate professor of physics.

He was well-liked at Swarthmore, He isn’t an extremist about anything, despite Swarthmore College’s extensive reputation as a bastion of communist-socialists and militant feminist-lesbians. Yes, they have free speech, as is their right. But their are many viewpoints held by students and academic staff at Swarthmore. I didn’t realize that until years later. .

I agree with you, Prashanth. I have followed Rush Holt’s career, though not that observantly. He is one of the only members of the current Congress that I respect and trust, unequivocally. I hope I can say that in five years, or ten, and that he remains in public office.

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem is that these laws will never, ever be repealed because they are supported by the Democratic and Republican parties. History has shown, especially in this country, that once you give the government unspecified, unlimited power, it is very reluctant to give that up and it will do its best to retain that power.

There isn’t support for these laws to be repealed and these laws should never have been introduced in Congress in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dark Helmet, you are MISSING the point. The Patriot Act should not even be a law any longer. Unless I’m mistaken, the law was supposed to expire (the sunset clause) in 2005. But that was before Democrats and Republicans decided they didn’t want to give up that power, so they keep re-authorizing it. And it’s the morons who keep voting for these same genetically mutated assinines in the U.S. Congress as to why they have never been repealed.

If you want to keep The Patriot Act and FISA, vote in 2014 and in 2016 for the same moral defectives currently running this country into the ground.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“If you want to keep The Patriot Act and FISA, vote in 2014 and in 2016 for the same moral defectives currently running this country into the ground.”

Are you guys kidding me w/this? If the next time the Patriot Act came around for reauthorization, they decided to gut it to only include the provisions I mentioned, you’d have a problem with that? How is that in any way sane?

William Payne (profile) says:



Clearly, Rep. Justin Amash and Rep. Rush Holt are seeking to undermine the ability of this nation to defend herself against aggressors and terrorists. They are either terribly naive, unaware of the consequences of their actions, or actively seeking to undermine the US government; to place US citizens in harm’s way. In either case, for their own good and ours, they cannot be allowed to continue. The utmost effort must be made to dissuade them from their disastrous course; all and every available resource must be deployed to prevent them from succeeding. The integrity and the security of the nation demands nothing less. We must immediately place these treacherous misanthropes under the greatest scrutiny, for there must exist some some previous indiscretion that could be used in the service of our cause – if not to gently dissuade them from their course, then to cast them down into ruin and disrepute. We have the means to preserve our security and our way of life – the only question that remains – do we have the courage to act on our convictions?


… and so it begins.

Anonymous Coward says:

there are clearly those with ‘dictator tendencies’ in very powerful positions in government and law enforcement as well as in the shadows but pulling the strings of those in the spotlight! to get these two bills repealed will be almost impossible simply because, like all things that in themselves give power to a certain few, the voices will be the loudest. they wont be so because of what is in place being right or losing what is in place being damaging. those voices will be shit scared of losing the power, the wealth and the influence they have enjoyed for far too long, molding a country far removed from how it started and the beliefs it had, all for personal gain! unfortunately, unless these bills are repealed, it is going to be almost impossible to correct the wrongs they have brought about!

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