Mr. Speaker, most Americans may not be aware of what is taking place by our government. Our government is spying on Americans and I think it is in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
In all of the talk that we have been having the last few weeks, we are missing one of the most basic issues that we hold dear: the right of privacy. Let me explain how it is taking place.
Go back to Snowden. We didn’t know about all of the spying going on in America until Snowden revealed that.I am no fan of his. I think he ought to be prosecuted, but we know information about our government spying on our Americans because of his disclosures.
Let me talk about specifically the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. What is that?FISA allows our government to spy on foreign agents, which includes terrorists, primarily overseas. So what happens is the government goes to a FISA court.What is that? It is a secret court that operates in secret that issues secret warrants.
I personally have an issue with that because it reminds me too much of the Star Chamber in England where they operated in secret and tried people in secret. As a former judge, I am very concerned about the loss of our Fourth Amendment right of privacy in the United States based on this law.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts operate in secret and issue warrants to go after bad guys overseas. So they seize that information and they put it in a database.Here is what happens: while seizing that information of communication— maybe an al-Qaida guy talking to another al-Qaida guy—they put that information in a database, but also that information is seized on Americans. Incidental is what they call that.
That may be a communication with an American that has nothing to do with terrorism. It could be something else.So that information is seized on Americans based on this warrant by a FISA judge on foreigners. The information is put in the database.
Here is what happens: occasionally, the government decides to go into that database that was seized without a Fourth Amendment warrant and see how many times a name comes up. They call it a query.That is another fancy name for a search.
So they search that database to see how many times Bobby Oglethorpe’s name pops up. Then they go to their administrative folks and get a piece of paper that allows them then a second search. They search that database to see if Bobby Oglethorpe is committing crimes in the U.S., having nothing to do with terrorism. Maybe it is bank robbery, maybe it is IRS fraud, maybe it violates other laws in the United States.
So then they seize that information, and we don’t know how many times they do that. The Judiciary Committee has asked the Justice Department: How many times have you done that? They refuse to tell us. Suspicious, isn’t it?
I will tell you how many times it is. According to The Washington Post, 90 percent of the account holders whose communications were collected were not the targets, the bad guys overseas. Ninety percent of them. Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files contained names, email addresses, and other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. So what information are they getting? Emails, communications, text messages. They seize that, then they go through that database to see if Bobby Oglethorpe is a bank robber or whatever, and all of that is done in secret.
Remember, secret courts issuing secret warrants, and they don’t tell anybody about that. That is a violation of the Fourth Amendment on Americans.
Let me read the Fourth Amendment: ‘‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.’’
Mr. Speaker, the Fourth Amendment is sacred to this country, and I include in the RECORD the Fourth Amendment. AMENDMENT [IV.] The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. M
Mr. Speaker, in this situation, government seizes the information without a probable cause warrant. Then they search the information to see how many times Bobby Oglethorpe maybe has violated other laws, and they do it without a probable cause warrant. That is allowed under 702 of the FISA legislation.
We are getting ready to reauthorize FISA. This 702 provision should require a warrant to search that information, a warrant to take the content of that information and make it public, and file on Bobby Oglethorpe. Mr. Speaker, Congress must set the standard for privacy, not the courts; and we are called upon to fix this spying on Americans and not allow it.
And that is just the way it is.