Byline: Rep. Ted Poe and Sen. Rand Paul
We believe that the unrestricted and unconstitutional bulk data collection program implemented by the NSA represents the worst of the Washington Machine, and a recent poll shows that a majority of Americans agree. The government should not have the authority to collect information without first obtaining a warrant. Period.
Our Founders feared a government powerful enough to commit unreasonable searches and seizures, and thus they crafted the Fourth Amendment to protect our right to privacy. Though technology has evolved, the Constitution remains everlasting. Gone are the days where Americans use their cellphones exclusively for phone calls and text messages.
Many people also use their phones for daily activities from tracking their steps to logging their finances or inputting what they ate that day. We believe the Fourth Amendment protects our phone conversations, our emails, our texts, our Internet history, our bank statements and more.
The NSA bulk-collection program tramples our rights. Recently, the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals deemed this bulk collection of data illegal. Now, some members of Congress are trying to pass a law that allows this illegal surveillance to continue. We will not stand for it.
The House of Representatives recently passed the USA Freedom Act, which makes some steps to limit data collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act; however, the bill does nothing to limit government spying under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.
Contrary to claims that the House bill would "end bulk surveillance," the truth is it would not. The NSA uses Section 702 as a means to gather not only data, but actual content of communications - content of your phone calls, texts and emails. Section 702 is more intrusive than Section 215.
In the course of this collection, the content of American citizens, many of whom have done nothing wrong or illegal, is also collected. Current law allows law enforcement to then search through this data for information and they can do so without a warrant. Reverse-targeting of American citizens is inconsistent with the Constitution and must stop now.
Opponents of civil liberties will argue that these mass invasions of privacy will make us safer. We refuse to believe that you must give up your constitutional rights for national security. Casting too wide of a collection net for intelligence can be a distraction from the analysis necessary to stop plots and - to counter terrorism.
Let us be clear: The NSA should keep close watch on suspected terrorists to keep our country safe. But before invading the privacy of American citizens, a warrant must and can be obtained in a timely manner. Programs that permit due process and are held accountable by an open court will serve as a just way to collect intelligence. The sacrifice of our personal liberty for security is and will forever be a false choice.
We have introduced several pieces of legislation that would restrain the federal government. This legislation includes HR 2233, the End Warrantless Surveillance of Americans Act. HR 2233 would prohibit warrantless searches of government databases for information that pertains to U.S. citizens. It would also forbid government agencies from mandating or requesting "back doors" into commercial products that can be used for surveillance. The legislation mirrors an amendment we offered to the USA Freedom Act, which was backed by a broad bipartisan coalition, including members of Congress and outside groups across the political spectrum. We are proud to represent the masses in the fight for NSA reform, and we will continue to stand united in defense of the Bill of Rights.