Rep. Amash: Congress last night gave massive new domestic surveillance powers to the President

The below commentary and letter were just posted to Representative Justin Amash’s Facebook page. I post here for your review.

Amash cc

When I learned that the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015 was being rushed to the floor for a vote—with little debate and only a voice vote expected (i.e., simply declared “passed” with almost nobody in the room)—I asked my legislative staff to quickly review the bill for unusual language. What they discovered is one of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative: It grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American.

On Wednesday afternoon, I went to the House floor to demand a roll call vote on the bill so that everyone’s vote would have to be recorded. I also sent the letter below to every representative.

With more time to spread the word, we would have stopped this bill, which passed 325-100. Thanks to the 99 other representatives—44 Republicans and 55 Democrats—who voted to protect our rights and uphold the Constitution. And thanks to my incredibly talented staff.

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Block New Spying on U.S. Citizens: Vote “NO” on H.R. 4681

Dear Colleague:

The intelligence reauthorization bill, which the House will vote on today, contains a troubling new provision that for the first time statutorily authorizes spying on U.S. citizens without legal process.

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.

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.

Supporters of Sec. 309 claim that the provision actually reins in the executive branch’s power to retain Americans’ private communications. It is true that Sec. 309 includes exceedingly weak limits on the executive’s retention of Americans’ communications. With many exceptions, the provision requires the executive to dispose of Americans’ communications within five years of acquiring them—although, as HPSCI admits, the executive branch already follows procedures along these lines.

In exchange for the data retention requirements that the executive already follows, Sec. 309 provides a novel statutory basis for the executive branch’s capture and use of Americans’ private communications. The Senate inserted the provision into the intelligence reauthorization bill late last night. That is no way for Congress to address the sensitive, private information of our constituents—especially when we are asked to expand our government’s surveillance powers.

I urge you to join me in voting “no” on H.R. 4681, the intelligence reauthorization bill, when it comes before the House today.

/s/

Justin Amash
Member of Congress

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U.S. Representatives Who Voted NO:

Amash
Bass
Bentivolio
Blumenauer
Bonamici
Brat
Bridenstine
Brooks (AL)
Broun (GA)
Burgess
Chu
Clark (MA)
Clarke (NY)
Clawson (FL)
Cohen
Conyers
Cummings
DeFazio
DelBene
DesJarlais
Doggett
Doyle
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Eshoo
Farr
Garamendi
Garcia
Garrett
Gibson
Gohmert
Gosar
Gowdy
Graves (GA)
Grayson
Griffith (VA)
Grijalva
Gutiérrez
Hahn
Hanabusa
Hastings (FL)
Heck (WA)
Holt
Honda
Huelskamp
Huffman
Jackson Lee
Jones
Jordan
Kaptur
Kildee
Kingston
Labrador
Lee (CA)
Lewis
Lofgren
Lowenthal
Lummis
Massie
Matsui
McClintock
McCollum
McDermott
McGovern
Meadows
Mica
Moore
Mulvaney
Nadler
Nugent
O’Rourke
Pallone
Perry
Pocan
Poe (TX)
Polis
Posey
Rangel
Ribble
Roe (TN)
Rohrabacher
Salmon
Sanford
Schakowsky
Scott, Austin
Sensenbrenner
Serrano
Speier
Stockman
Swalwell (CA)
Takano
Tierney
Tipton
Velázquez
Waters
Weber (TX)
Welch
Woodall
Yarmuth
Yoho