Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Guest Post From Senator Ted Lieu-- Ending Domestic Spying


I met state Senator Ted Lieu at John Amato's birthday dinner a few weeks ago. I didn't know a lot about him-- just that he's one of the hard-working progressives in the state legislature and that he infuriated the banksters by writing and passing-- it took two sessions-- a consumer protection bill that stopped shady mortgage come-ons dead in their tracks. Now Lieu is running for the CA-33 seat that Henry Waxman is giving up (Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West L.A., Torrance, Malibu…), a crowded race that includes other good progressives as well as a powerful and dangerous "ex"-Republican from the GOP wing of the Democratic Party, Wendy Greuel. Lieu impressed me as an authentic and serious legislator with deeply-held convictions and the talents to work with others to translate those convictions into policy. Apparently it impressed the California Democratic Party as well, which overwhelmingly endorsed him for the primary at the state convention two weeks ago.

We wound up getting into a discussion of domestic spying and I was astounded by the work he's already done on the subject. In light of Obama's decision yesterday to put a check on unconstitutional NSA surveilance programs, I asked him to write a guest post about it. After you finish reading it, you might want to consider contributing to his campaign.

NSA Should Stop The Bulk Collection Program Right Now
-by Senator Ted Lieu

Benjamin Franklin famously stated: “They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” The National Security Agency should follow Franklin’s admonition.  Unfortunately, the NSA’s continued execution of the bulk collection program violates our liberties, and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, every minute of every day. The NSA seizes records on every American’s phone calls-- including who you called, who called you, the times of the calls, and the duration of the calls. This bulk collection program is flat out unconstitutional.

The Fourth Amendment is clear: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Americans are not reasonably suspicious simply because we make phone calls. By any definition, it is unreasonable for the federal government to seize the phone records of every single American.

Federal Judge Richard Leon looked at the plain language of the Fourth Amendment and ruled the NSA’s bulk collection program was unconstitutional last December, but his ruling has been stayed pending appeal. Unfortunately, the NSA continues to operate the bulk collection program even though the NSA has not been able to come up with a single instance of a terrorist act that the program has prevented.

That is why I introduced Senate Bill 828, the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, in the California State Legislature. This bill is modeled on California’s Trust Act, which was signed into law last year. The Trust Act directed local officials to not cooperate with federal immigration officials when it came to detention holds of those without documents. Senate Bill 828 directs California officials to not cooperate with the NSA when it wants private information on an individual, unless the NSA has a specific warrant for that individual.

I introduced SB 828 because California government should not cooperate with the federal government when Californians’ constitutional rights are being violated. I also introduced SB 828 because I believe privacy will be one of the defining issues of our generation.

And our federal government should not be invading our privacy in violation of the Constitution. Every elected official, from the President to local elected officials, takes an oath. That oath is not to any particular party, or administration, or agency. Instead, the oath is to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That means if a federal program is unconstitutional, the federal government simply cannot execute it, no matter how allegedly worthwhile the goals. If the federal government wants to do an unconstitutional program, then the Administration needs to seek a constitutional amendment. What the NSA cannot do is to simply ignore the Fourth Amendment.

In the case of the bulk collection program, not only is there no evidence that it is effective, it is causing all sorts of negative consequences to our economy. In a New York Times story on March 21, Revelations of NSA Spying Cost U.S. Tech Companies, tech companies such as IBM are now spending billions of dollars building data centers overseas, rather than in America, in order to avoid the NSA. That is costing American jobs.

Because of pressure from federal legislators, state legislators, tech companies, and citizens across America, it appears the Obama Administration is rethinking the NSA’s vacuum cleaner approach to privacy and security. I am pleased the Obama Administration announced yesterday that it would seek congressional legislation to end the NSA’s practice of seizing and storing five years of phone records on every American. This is a good first step. While the legislation is pending, the NSA should follow Judge Leon’s ruling and the Constitution: the NSA should stop the bulk collection program right now.

Let’s not forget that the last time our federal government engaged in a mass violation of constitutional rights for “security” reasons, over a hundred thousand Americans were forced into internment camps.

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