A Republican and a Democrat are teaming up to push for the repeal of the Patriot Act, which has led to widespread government surveillance of Americans.
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced legislation this week called the Protect Our Civil Liberties Act. Besides repealing the Patriot Act, which loosened restrictions on where and how federal investigators could spy in the wake of 9/11, the legislation would undo the FISA Amendments Act, which allowed officials to surveil people located outside the United States.
Gabbard said in a video statement announcing the bill, “In our country, there are fundamental freedoms and rights that are enshrined in the Constitution, guaranteed to every single American, among which are our right to privacy and protection of our civil liberties.”
The two measures “basically allowed agencies within our government to conduct mass illegal surveillance on Americans without a warrant or probable cause,” Gabbard said, citing information leaked by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor.
Gabbard asserts that James Clapper, the director of intelligence during the Obama administration, lied under oath in a hearing when asked in 2013 whether the government was conducting mass surveillance and collecting data on Americans. He replied, “No, sir.” He also said: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”
Snowden’s leaks proved that wrong. Clapper, who later acknowledged his testimony was “clearly erroneous,” was not charged with a crime. He’s also said he thinks mass surveillance is still necessary. A federal court in 2015 ruled the data collection program was illegal.
Massey said in a statement that the Patriot Act “contains many provisions that violate the Fourth Amendment and have led to a dramatic expansion of our domestic surveillance state.”
“Our Founding Fathers fought and died to stop the kind of warrantless spying and searches that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act authorize. It is long past time to repeal the Patriot Act and reassert the constitutional rights of all Americans,” he said.
FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secretive court that federal officials can go to for permission to spy on targets. The court approved applications to spy on President Donald Trump’s campaign associate Carter Page, despite the applications being riddled with errors, a Department of Justice inspector general investigation found.
Because of that, lawmakers have become increasingly critical of the murky process, and have pushed for either strong reforms or the abolition of the court altogether.
The Department of Justice and the FBI have argued that the reforms are being made, including having applications include questions about whether the target has provided information to the government, a nod to Page being a CIA asset.