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No Foreign Spy Program Reauthorization Without Citizen Protections

The federal government has no business using information gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act against Americans.

The federal government's greatest constitutional responsibility is keeping America safe and secure. One of many tools in its arsenal is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was meant to strengthen our ability to monitor foreign threats.

Since the intention of FISA is to spy on foreigners, we don't require that the government obey the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protections of privacy are not extended to foreigners.

Congress agreed to a less-than-constitutional standard as long as the targets were foreigners in foreign lands. Even many privacy advocates can accept this lower standard for foreign intelligence. But few, if any, privacy advocates believe that information vacuumed up without constitutional protections should be used against Americans accused of domestic wrongdoing.

Unfortunately, that's what we believe is happening now. In the vast dragnet of data files collected on foreigners under Section 702 of FISA, millions of bits of information are also collected on Americans. We don't know the exact amount because our overlords in the intelligence community won't tell us.

Apologists for any and all spying on anyone anywhere, foreign or domestic, want to permanently reauthorize this program. Permanent reauthorization would mean Congress would never again debate or oversee any abuses in this spy program. I can't think of an approach more callous in its disregard for our cherished Bill of Rights.

I will do whatever it takes, including filibuster, to prevent any reauthorization without new constitutional controls on this program.

Are Americans currently caught up in this bulk collection of data? If so, how many innocent Americans are being swept up in this program? Well, that's part of the problem. Good luck finding out, even if you've been elected to Congress.

One grave danger we know about is so-called "incidental" data being used to prosecute Americans in domestic criminal cases. Such evidence should be inadmissible because it was collected without Fourth Amendment protections.

Some reformers believe that the government should not be able to search this massive database, or any database for that matter, without a judicial warrant. Absolutely, a warrant should be required, but really no information gathered without constitutional protection should be used, with or without a warrant, in domestic crime.

Should there be any exceptions? If a judge grants a warrant and a search discovers an American who has communicated with a foreign threat and can now be convicted of a national security or terrorism crime, then by all means, prosecution should be allowed to proceed.

But, if a search of the 702 data discovers incidental malfeasance such as a tax infraction, that data, with or without a warrant, should never be used in domestic prosecution.

Furthermore, the government should be disallowed from taking that information and developing a parallel construction of a case, where the illegally obtained information is not used in court but is used by law enforcement to develop other information to mount a prosecution.

Our Founders gave us the Fourth Amendment to prevent a tyrannical government from invading our privacy, and we are fools to relinquish that hard-won right because of fear. Some argue that "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear," but this is a slap in the face to our constitutional standard of "innocent until proven guilty."

Madison wrote that the chains of the Constitution are necessary because men are not angels. Bias enters into the minds of even the most well-meaning of souls.

Questions remain about whether high-ranking Obama administration officials, such as Susan Rice, "unmasked" Trump transition officials for political reasons. Questions remain about who in government feloniously leaked General Flynn's telephone conversation to the press.

Recent discoveries that a high-ranking FBI official and his mistress conspired with someone named "Andy" about an "insurance policy" to prevent Trump from becoming President should scare all impartial observers.

The bias and potential for bias among intelligence officials means we need more oversight, not less. Anyone who has witnessed the institutional bias and hatred of this president by the deep state should want more oversight of FISA's 702 program.

Such stories, and more, pose many questions that must be answered to reveal whether or not the real collusion of 2016 concerned any efforts to smear President Trump or even prevent him from taking office.

While I believe that most people within the intelligence community are hard-working, patriotic Americans with whom we can have an honest discussion about the best way to protect America, it only takes a handful in the right positions to corrupt the system, and we should find out more about what has really been happening behind the scenes.

Ultimately, this debate focuses on a truth that many seem to have forgotten: the Founders did not include the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights as a suggestion.

It is a foundational element of what we are supposed to be as a nation and a concrete safeguard for our freedom against shifting political tides.

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  • GILMORE™||

    editors-at-large, seemingly unimpressed

  • Rhywun||

    Sheesh why doesn't he shut up already smdh

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    What's Paul talking about there?

  • Hugh Akston||

    What's Gilmore talking about?

  • Hank Phillips||

    Randal's party used the tax laws to enforce the prohibition amendment. To do this they ran roughshod over the 1st, 4th and 5th until the entire economy collapsed. Randal and his dad like the free publicity they get for cross-dressing as libertarians and pretending the bill of rights wasn't deliberately erased by pious prohibitionists, many of them Republicans.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    We get it, you hate republicans no matter what. And once again, you have no real relevant. Point. Just more nonsensical gibber.

  • FlameCCT||

    NSA surveillance of foreign nationals being used as evidence against US citizens in unrelated cases. Similar to the way Obama admin used NSA surveillance of foreign nationals in an attempt to get dirt on Trump campaign.

    Sen. Paul and a few others have been complaining about this for years although most Progressive Dems stopped complaining once Obama was elected and the Progressive GOPe stopped too. I expect the Progressive Dems may now start complaining again because they realize that they (through Obama) have set some really bad precedents including the use of government agencies against the opposition which can now be used by Trump.

    Sen. Paul wants Congressional oversight to be included if passed without a sunset clause. Currently there is no way to confirm if it is being abused since its treated like a "black" project.

  • Just Say'n||

    It's super libertarian-y now to trust the FBI and be disinterested about secret FISA courts if the NYT is ok with it

  • Longtobefree||

    Still does not answer the root cause question; is terrorism a military, or civil criminal matter?
    Do we respond with cops, or soldiers?

  • Some Engineer||

    At this point, what is the difference between cops and soldiers?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Soldiers usually get in trouble when they kill civilians on purpose.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Soldiers also have zero arrest powers outside of members of the military. Even when they catch Somalian pirates. They have to detain them until proper international law enforcement personnel arrive to place them under official arrest.

  • Zeb||

    I think it is both, depending on the particular actions you are talking about. Any attack that happens in the US should definitely be a civilian criminal matter. Otherwise you start down a very dangerous path. Outside of the country, military is usually the only way to directly deal with organized terrorist groups. Then the question is to what extent we should actually be getting militarily involved.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    How the hell are you supposed to respond to a 911style attack by treating it as a civilian matter? I specially if it is by a definitively non civilian organization like ISIS?

  • Zeb||

    Fair point. Something like that that is known to be organized by a fairly coherent foreign group in a country without good laws or relations with the US may warrant a military response. I was thinking more of things planned an executed within the country (even if there is foreign help or influence).
    My broader point is that the broad category of "terrorism" isn't one thing. Each incident should be dealt with for what it is. Not all terrorism needs to be treated the same way.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    True. Most lone wolf attacks, or within a small group with no military or paramilitary ties should be squarely in the realm of civilian law enforcement. When militarized foreign or foreign sponsored groups are involved I don't see a good alternative to making it primarily a military matter.

    Either way, constitiaonal limits on any internal military activity should be observed.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    'Constitutional'

  • FlameCCT||

    Inside the USA the only response is civilian law enforcement whether Federal, State, or local. Posse Comitatus Act prevents military from any armed response except on federal property.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Pussy Coitus Action was my college punk band name.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    millions of bits of information are also collected on Americans

    You're not going to impress people talking about mere megabytes man.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Enough to fill a dozen 3.5" floppy disks!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    My God... now that you've phrased it in a way I can grasp I am truly horrified.

  • Dan S.||

    If it's less than eight million bits, it's not even one megabyte.

  • Hank Phillips||

    I recall when the chance to invade Ottoman Iraq and kill people arrived, and the military were ecstatic. Soon the myrmidons of Mohammed took their turn and began attacking the World Trade Center until they eventually knocked it down. Surprise, surprise. I voted against the initiation of force, but the initiation of force was real popular back then. It is reassuring to see that it is less so today. Then again "we" just sent a bunch more solders to the opium farm nation of Afghanistan, doubtless to ramp up the flow of heroin and prop up the pretexts for more prohibitionist asset forfeiture. I wonder what the myrmidons'll target next?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    No one's impressed that you played Fire Emblem and so you know what a myrmidon is.

  • Holmes IV||

    Let no man forget how menacing we are! We are lions!

  • Elias Fakaname||

    He might have also seen the movie 'Troy'.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Hey shitbag, I was in Desert Storm. I was also present in the aftermath of the liberation of Kuwait. We were the good guys. And none of us were 'ecstatic' to go over there, even if stopping Saddam was the right call. So really, go fuck yourself you weasel piece of shot.
    Sit on to make such a decsion
    Also, how the fuck did YOU 'vote against the initiation of force'? In what possible way were you in a position to do that?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    That was intended for Hank.

  • d.b||

    HANK PHILLIPS HAS BEEN OUTED!
    He said that "he" ..... "voted against the initiation of force, but the initiation of force was real popular back then."

    That means that Hank is really Barbara Lee, the democrat who was the only member of congress to vote against the original AUMF. Even Ron Paul got taken in by that one and not much ever gets by him.

  • m.EK||

    Rand;
    I'm not sure what the "debate" is about. The 4th Amendment is locked into the Constitution.
    When you swore or affirmed the Oath of Office, you declared that you would abide by the Constitution "AS WRITTEN"! This is not some smarmy "I hope I can if the politics allow" type of swearing. It is a LEGAL AND BINDING CONTRACT (Civil Law) given by everyone of the political hacks, including the President and "Justices" of the so called supreme court.
    Each and everyone of you are locked into this Oath in order to assume office.
    This is on purpose! This is the leverage "We The People" have over you. This is what this magazine and the Libertarians seem to forget.
    Very SAD!

  • d.b||

    That's a fair question mek, He's covered it plenty on other places but he took it for rote here that you'd know that. You didn't, so Ill spell it out.
    -The debate is about letting the "intelligence" community vacuum up everything we say over the phone, text, PM, write in emails, and look up on google.
    -The debate is about letting these pretend-spies do that to us without a warrant. That means a warrant with our specific name on it, what is being looked for, where they get to look and enough supposed evidence to get an independent judge to sign that warrant.
    -The debate is about letting Big Pig then use anything they find, or auction it off to some other sty.
    -The debate is whether we let our smiling protectors and servers keep anything they have found on us using an extra-national, non-citizen loophole, and use it to "investigate and prosecute domestic crime.
    -Remember: 99.5% of the time that section 213 of the (anti-terrorist) "Patriot" Act was used, it was used to prosecute domestic, NON-terrorists. You can read that 99.5% as tax evaders, potheads, and people on both of our Christmas card lists.

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