Just weeks after the Senate failed to pass a bill that could have limited the government's ability to spy on U.S. citizens, the House of Representatives has passed a piece of troubling legislation that could give the executive branch even more freedom to gather your information. In fact, one U.S. representative rushed to stop the Intelligence Authorization Act - which he says "grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American" - but was too late.
Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of the intelligence reauthorization bill with a new Sec. 309 — one the House never has considered. Sec. 309 authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of nonpublic communications, including those to and from U.S. persons. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.
When Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) heard about the vote and realized its implications, he contacted other representatives and urged them to vote no.
All in all, 99 other Republicans and Democrats joined Amash, but the bill still passed by a wide margin, 325-100.
The Intelligence Authorization Act puts your digital privacy at risk. That's because, according to Amash, it would allow the executive branch to gather your private communications - such as telephone records and communications on the computer - and provide them to law enforcement without a warrant or court order.
Amash took to his Facebook page to post the warning letter he sent to other representatives:
To be clear, Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena. The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.
Section 309 of the bill does provide some protections. For instance, all collected data would have to be disposed of after five years. I don't know about you, but that doesn't make me breathe much easier.
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