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.