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Democrats Just Handed Trump More Domestic Surveillance Powers. They Should Know Better.

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There is no reason for the FBI to read Americans' emails without a warrant. Why doesn't Nancy Pelosi agree?

From youtube.com: Why Aren't Candidates Discussing Domestic Surveillance? {MID-226445}
Why Aren't Candidates Discussing Domestic Surveillance?
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Democrats have been all over the airwaves recently accusing Donald Trump of abusing the Justice Department to go after his political enemies -- most notably his former opponent Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, which the Department of Justice is reportedly currently investigating based on an allegation made during the 2016 presidential campaign. So you'd think they would oppose handing Donald Trump any more power with which he could potentially use against all sorts of Americans who attract negative attention from his administration.

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Yet, with the help of some Democrats, the House of Representatives voted today [Jan 11] -- and the Senate will do so sometime in the next week -- to extend a controversial NSA surveillance power that potentially affects millions of Americans' privacy rights.

The bill is an extension of what's known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the NSA to warrantlessly target people in other countries who are communicating with Americans -- which means that they collect the personal communications of Americans without their knowledge.

Currently, the NSA has over 100,000 foreign nationals under this type of surveillance now, but it also has the communications of the potentially millions of Americans they've talked to, texted with and emailed over the course of the surveillance. The FBI has access to this vast database of information and regularly searches it like Google without a warrant, for crimes that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism...

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Privacy advocates have long argued this practice is unconstitutional, and any American agency should need a warrant to go back into that vast NSA database of Americans' communications and date in order to mine it for information -- like the Fourth Amendment requires.

But with Section 702 expiring next week, the Trump administration has of course, demanded that Congress pass an extension with supposed "reforms" that do hardly anything to stop the feds from abusing their powers and actually codify the ability for the FBI, in many cases, to search Americans' emails without a warrant.

Paul Ryan and House Republicans needed Democratic votes to ensure that the measure passed because at least some members of House Freedom Caucus, led by GOP Rep. Justin Amash, were staunchly opposed to any extension without robust safeguards to protect Americans' privacy. Along with a large group of Democrats -- including the Democratic National Committee vice chairman, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn -- the group had an amendment to the extension known as the USA RIGHTS Act, which would have replaced the privacy-invasive bill with a privacy-protecting one.

The USA RIGHTS Act would have required the FBI to get a warrant to go back into the NSA's Section 702 database to search for Americans' information. It also would have provided additional safeguards to make sure the bill doesn't turn into a domestic surveillance bill.

Yet up until just hours before the vote, the most powerful member of the Democratic Caucus, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, was notably silent on the bill. If Pelosi had whipped Democrats to vote against the bill and supported the USA RIGHTS Act instead, there's a good chance that Trump and Ryan would have failed to get their full extension. Yet, just before the floor vote today she said she would not support the USA Rights Act and shamefully voted to hand Trump exactly what he wanted.

Almost worse than Pelosi's willingness to go along with the NSA was Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who has seen his star rise over the last year being the Democrat's go-to voice on the Russia investigation. On CNN with Jake Tapper this weekend, Schiff talked at length how he thought Trump was abusing his power and misusing the Justice Department to go after his political enemies.

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Nonetheless, Schiff was a leading driver in the House to extend the NSA's surveillance powers, and has been undercutting the more robust reforms proposed by other Democrats, like longtime Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden, for months. (The Senate is expected to take up their own vote sometime in the next week if the House passes its bill.)

But for all the supporters' insistence that the NSA and FBI "need" these powers, no one proposed to actually strip the agencies of their ability to conduct surveillance on targets abroad; even the USA RIGHTS Amendment did nothing to restrict them in that regard. It merely would have protected Americans whose communications get swept up in the NSA's vast nets from being abused after the fact.

In 2018, we have the worst-case-scenario president about whom privacy advocates have warned for years while seeking to restrict government surveillance powers. His administration has targeted on Muslims and immigrants for massive new law enforcement measures and even openly mused about conducting surveillance on his political opponents. Democrats should have had the foresight to roll back the Bush-era surveillance laws under President Obama; it's unconscionable to now hand Trump even more leverage to seek retribution and give him a green light to conduct unconstitutional surveillance on Americans.

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Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and lawyer who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He has contributed to  The (more...)
 

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5 people are discussing this page, with 6 comments  Post Comment


Dennis Kaiser

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There's that "Impeachment is off the table" Pelosi going against what's best for the people of this nation. One must really begin to wonder where her interests lie, or is it fact there is only one Corporate Party and not a Republican and Democratic bipartisan legislative branch?

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 13, 2018 at 1:55:17 PM

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Kenneth Johnson

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A most courtly asked question, considering that you, I, and everyone else here knows perfectly well where Nancy Pelosi's interests lie.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 13, 2018 at 4:02:32 PM

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Devil's Advocate

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Again, identity politics is getting in the way of seeing what is going on.

Spying on everyone is the intention of BOTH parties, as well as the entire intelligence community. Any "Trump issues" will not get in the way of that larger mandate, regardless of what party any rep belongs to.

Another way you're being distracted is with these supposed votes on "extensions" to things like 702. All that is being talked about is HOW the "database" should be legally ACCESSED. The real question is WHY is this database being allowed to be compiled?!

The very act of creating such a database is, technically and literally, ILLEGAL. Yet, there it sits, getting bigger and bigger, with nothing being deleted. No warrants, and no charges to specific individuals to justify the collection as "evidence".

The collection was never legal in the first place. It was simply DONE, with the NSA and the government trying to stay quiet about it, hoping nobody would notice. When they were exposed, the collection was never halted, nor was there any real attempt to have the database challenged and destroyed.

The distractions from the real issue continue, as does the act itself. Because nobody in power ever voiced the obvious concern and made a case to have the illegal spying halted, and its illegal database terminated.

Because they don't want it to stop.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 13, 2018 at 5:43:30 PM

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911TRUTH

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Is anyone really shocked by this?


The justification for the police state was the point of 9/11.


The water in the pot is getting hotter and hotter and we're all frogs.



Submitted on Saturday, Jan 13, 2018 at 8:12:56 PM

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Hosea McAdoo

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There are two parties that should be closed: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party .

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 13, 2018 at 11:54:26 PM

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Hosea McAdoo

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There are two parties that should be closed: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party .

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 13, 2018 at 11:55:42 PM

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