Tag: warrants

You’ve probably seen the buzz around #ReleaseTheMemo on social and other media. But perhaps you found it hard to follow from a privacy advocate’s point of view.

The House Intelligence Committee in Congress agreed to share a document that allegedly described abuses of FISA surveillance, pending the president’s approval. 

Now that it’s finally been released, let’s take a look if it lived up to the hype…

The predictions:

  • It would describe political surveillance, conducted with the knowledge of President Obama, of people involved in the Trump campaign
  • It would show the bias inherent in the Mueller investigation of President Trump
  • It would vastly misrepresent the underlying intelligence reports
  • It would be unprecedented to release to the public reports of such a highly classified nature, potentially compromising national security
  • It would provide substantial evidence for the need of greater oversight of FISA surveillance

The precedents:

The realities:

  • Its main point is that the FBI failed to disclose bias by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele against Trump as part of its application for a FISA warrant; But it was already well-known that Steele’s firm received payment from Democrats, that he was vehemently opposed to Trump’s election, and that his dossier constituted opposition research
  • It doesn’t lessen any suspicion of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, because that has been shown from other sources than the Steele dossier
  • Perhaps the FBI should have caveated better on the FISA application as to Steele’s motivations.
  • However, the memo doesn’t seem to substantively reveal improper political surveillance by the FBI motivated by political animus against Trump
  • From our standpoint, the memo seems to have been released as a parry in the knife fight of partisan struggles; it doesn’t reveal material relevant to Restore the Fourth’s mission
  • Suggestions of the memo compromising national security seem to be overblown; the memo could easily have been part of a public discussion prior to this, and the fact that it wasn’t suggests that our system vastly overclassifies information, and is reluctant to let the public know about things we’re in fact fully capable of understanding.

After much Congressional debate to expand or reform NSA surveillance late last year failed to deliver a conclusion before the sunset of Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, it was temporarily extended to January 19th as part of a continuing resolution. to On January 5, the Rules Committee for the House of Representatives introduced S. 139, the first proposed bill since that sunset and extension.

As-is, this bill would not reform NSA surveillance programs to be in line with the Constitution. In particular, it lacks a strong warrant requirement. As such, Restore the Fourth is not supporting this bill. Currently, we are asking people to contact their representatives and urge them to support the one amendment being allowed to S. 139, which would replace it with Rep. Justin Amash‘s excellent USA Rights Act. This would:

  • End backdoor searches and require warrants
  • Close a loophole where law enforcement could engage in ‘reverse targeting’ such that they ostensibly choose a foreign target when their true interest is a US citizen that target is communicating with
  • Codify the ban on ‘about collection’
  • Restore the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s authority to report on foreign surveillance programs

“The USA RIGHTS Act is the best chance for real reform in a decade. Congress should grab this chance to restore our lost liberties with both hands.” -Alex Marthews, National Chair, Restore the Fourth

 

CLICK HERE TO GET CONNECTED TO YOUR CONGRESSPERSON AND SENATORS TODAY!