As the mainstream media provides relentless coverage of the Harvey Weinstein Hollywood sex scandal, there is one major piece of legislation it is ignoring, and if passed, it will have massive repercussions for all Americans.
More than 40 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, have joined together to condemn the USA Liberty Act, a trendy name for a dangerous bill that reauthorizes and creates additional loopholes for Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, the coalition noted that one of the most obvious problems with the USA Liberty Act is that it fails to address concerns with the “backdoor search loophole,” which allows the government to “conduct warrantless searches for the information of individuals who are not targets of Section 702, including U.S. citizens and residents.” “The USA Liberty Act departs from the recommendation made by the President’s Review Group on Surveillance, appropriations amendments that have previously passed the House, and urgings of civil society organizations, which would have required a probable cause warrant prior to searching the Section 702 database for information about a U.S. citizen or resident absent narrow exceptions. As written, it raises several concerns. First, the bill’s most glaring deficiency is that it does not require a warrant to access content in cases where the primary purpose is to return foreign intelligence. This is an exception that threatens to swallow the rule.” Not surprisingly, the USA Liberty Act claims that it will “better protect Americans’ privacy” by requiring the government to have “a legitimate national security purpose” before searching an individual’s database. Then when they do have that purpose established, they will be required to “obtain a court order based on probable cause to look at the content of communications, except when lives or safety are threatened, or a previous probable cause-based court order or warrant has been granted.”
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