Restore The Fourth

Opposing unconstitutional mass government surveillance

  • We Have A Right To Breathe, Your Honor

    “I can’t breathe.” That was what Eric Garner said, and what George Floyd said, and what many more Americans have said when seized and restrained

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  • Libertarian, Green Nominees Weigh In on Surveillance and Privacy

    Restore The Fourth interviewed Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen and Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins on privacy and surveillance topics. We asked the Biden and

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    photo of Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen and of Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins
  • Our Platform To Reduce Police Violence

    The United States is in the middle of a pandemic of racist police violence that shows no sign of abating. For many police officers, expressing

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  • Beware of Governments Bearing Contact Tracing Apps

    Providing hospital personnel and the general public with enough tests, masks and hand soap is hard. In-person contact tracing is expensive and risky for the

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  • Restore the Fourth, 18 Allies Ask Congress To Investigate FBI Monitoring

    The essence of the Fourth Amendment is that the government should leave you and your stuff alone, unless they can satisfy a judge that they

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Donald Trump

Grade: F

Our predictions about a Trump presidency have been largely, though not entirely, borne out. With respect to surveillance and privacy issues, President Trump’s consistent position has been to express opposition to surveillance when conducted on him, his family, his campaign workers or his political allies; but to support and expand surveillance at the level of policy, when conducted on protesters, immigrants or foreign nationals.

Trump has opposed himself to the “deep state,” and has publicly voiced distrust of the FBI and CIA, to an extent unusual for presidents. In turn, officials deeply implicated in illegal mass surveillance, such as Jim Clapper, have vocally opposed the President for his lack of trust in the intelligence community. This climate of distrust created political space in Congress for Republicans, such as Devin Nunes and Matt Gaetz, to advocate for reforms to FISA to prevent surveillance of political campaigns without the approval of the Attorney-General. The report on “Crossfire Hurricane” revealed substantial mishandling of applications to surveil US citizens under FISA. That scandal, in part, led to the expiration of controversial PATRIOT Act statutory authorities during 2020; these authorities had been used unlawfully to enable mass surveillance. It is unclear, however, whether surveillance practices have actually changed. There are indications that the same surveillance may be being conducted anyway, under executive rather than statutory authority. And the most recently released FISA court opinions show a continued willingness on the part of the court to sign off on continuing surveillance despite documented and massive illegality.  

Despite his verbal suspicions, Trump’s overall effect on governmental surveillance powers has been to broaden them. FBI and DHS surveillance of domestic dissent has expanded. DHS, under his presidency, has become a federal security force that routinely violates the rights of protesters. Trump has been eager to reify a new, public enemy in the form of “antifa,” to replace the fading public enemy of “the terrorists.” He has tried hard to divert resources and attention from surveillance of white supremacist groups, and has partnered with surveillance-oriented firms like Palantir to ramp up surveillance and mistreatment of immigrants, both internally and at the border.

Under his administration, the police state has tightened its grip. Trump ardently and consistently opposes police accountability for racist killings, terming it a “left-wing war on cops.” He has spoken up in favor of police brutality, and has tried to deny federal funds to cities that dare to reduce police funding, describing them as “anarchist jurisdictions.” He has continued prior administrations’ efforts to undermine encryption, and pursued the exact kind of Espionage Act prosecution against Julian Assange that the Obama administration had rejected because it would criminalize journalistic reporting. He has consistently showered contempt on whistleblowers and undermined the anti-corruption work of inspectors-general.

Our Platform To Reduce Police Violence

The United States is in the middle of a pandemic of racist police violence that shows no sign of abating. For many police officers, expressing verbal opposition to a police killing, police tactic or police budget, is itself an act of unreasoning aggression no sane person could endorse. So it’s at protests against police violence that you see the most police violence; it’s the very expression of the idea that police should submit themselves to the rule of law, that arouses their lawless fury.

For decades, elected officials from both major parties have treated police and the military like a special class. Congressmembers, councilors, mayors and legislators have approved their budgets and acquisitions without question. Till this year, it has been almost politically unimaginable to treat their requests with the same skepticism afforded to other funding requests. Courts, too, have enshrined enormous deference to police and the military into law, through abusive concepts like “qualified immunity.” Drastic change is necessary to change the culture, not only of the police, but of our political system as a whole.

A restored Fourth Amendment requires that people, their communications and their effects be searched or seized only subject to probable cause of involvement in an actual crime. The actual practice of both police and federal agencies is to over-surveil, over-criminalize, over-seize and over-detain, and the law improperly allows them to escape accountability for these violations.

The Restore The Fourth board hereby endorses the following seven specific measures to reduce police violence:

  1. At the federal level, pass the tri-partisan Ending Qualified Immunity Act, so that people can once more sue the police for violating their rights. At the state level, implement changes like that recently approved in Colorado.
  2. Abolish federal civil asset forfeitures, which enable police to steal people’s cash, vehicles, and even homes with impunity, through passing the FAIR Act. At the state level, pass bills similar to the model legislation from the Institute for Justice.
  3. End no-knock warrants, which are a vector for police violence, at the federal level through passing the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, and at the state and local level through prohibitions such as that passed in Louisville, KY.
  4. Reduce jail churn by reducing arrests: Police should refrain from arrests for misdemeanor quality-of-life crimes, “resisting arrest”, protest-related trespassing, and crimes associated with being homeless. Rather than setting cash bail, judges should implement pretrial detention only where there has been a finding of dangerousness after a hearing.
  5. Abolish DHS, making its constituent agencies independent again; it was a bad idea from the get-go. Among its constituent agencies, abolish ICE, and revert to a unitary agency for both documented and undocumented immigrants.
  6. Pass surveillance oversight ordinances and facial recognition bans at the local, county and state levels, to restrain the police from deploying surveillance without review and consent by local elected officials.
  7. In relation to coronavirus pandemic enforcement, we believe that governments should involve the police only secondarily and as a last resort, such as if someone assaults or murders a member of the public or public health worker trying to enforce a coronavirus-related restriction, or for education and handing out masks. Drones and robots should not be used for enforcement, and contact tracing apps should be used only under tight constraints.

We thank the volunteers of Restore The Fourth, Critical Resistance, the Cato Institute, and the protesters, activists and scholars engaged with Black Lives Matter, for inspiring us to identify and support these measures. If you’d like to help make this platform a reality, contact Restore The Fourth here.