Fed Gov’t Just Admitted It Will Continue Warrantless Spying—Even If Congress Votes to Stop It

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As the United States Congress runs out of time to vote on a bill that would reauthorize one of the government’s most egregious warrantless spying programs, officials are claiming that those programs won’t end anytime soon—even if they are not reauthorized by the end of the year.

The USA Liberty Act will reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2017. While the bill’s proponents have claimed it will help ensure “security” in the United States, privacy advocates have warned that will provide additional loopholes for the government to continue conducting warrantless surveillance of innocent Americans.

The assumption may be that if the USA Liberty Act is not signed into law, then the provisions from Section 702 will no longer be legal and the U.S. government will stop collecting data from innocent Americans without warrants—but intelligence officials do not see it that way.

A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Brian Hale, told the New York Times that “the government believes it can keep the program going for months,” even if it is not reauthorized.

Hale’s reasoning stems from the fact that every year, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizes the program to operate for the next 12 months. Section 702 was last authorized by the court on April 26, 2017, leaving some lawmakers hopeful that even if the Liberty Act does not pass before the end of the year, Congress will find a way reauthorize Section 702 before it actually expires on April 26, 2018.

Hale cited the “Transition Procedures” for the provision, which accompany the law in federal statute books. He told the Times that the procedures make it “very clear” that “any existing order will continue in effect for a short time even if Congress doesn’t act to reauthorize the law in a timely fashion.”

According to the definitions of Transition Procedures for the Protect America Act of 2007’s provisions for “Challenge of Directives, Protection from Liability; Use of Information” concerning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Section 702 shall continue to apply with respect to any directive issued pursuant to section 702 of such Act.”

While this loophole may give hope to some government officials who are in favor of violating Americans’ constitutional rights while selling them a false sense of security, NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden referred to it by writing on Twitter, Bypass the Fourth Amendment with one weird trick.”

The Times also cited anonymous intelligence officials who reportedly said that the government is making no plans to immediately turn off the program on New Year’s Day, no matter what happens in Congress.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, told the Times that he is prepared to have “a full and open debate” over the legality of the USA Liberty Act, even if Congress delays that debate until next year.

We’ve seen this movie before: wait until the last minute, and then say, ‘crowded congressional calendar, dangerous world, we’ve just got to go along with it,’” Wyden said. “Anything now that creates an opportunity for several months of real debate, I’ll listen to.”

Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan, has also been critical of the USA Liberty Act. When it passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 27-8 last month, Amash noted that all privacy advocates should be concerned about the overwhelming support the bill is receiving from Congress.

“The Liberty Act passed committee 27-8. It allows the government to search our private data without a warrant—in violation of the 4th Amendment,” Amash wrote on Twitter. “It’s another bill, like the Freedom Act, that furthers violations of our rights under the guise of protecting our rights.”

While advocates of the USA Liberty Act will claim that it is necessary in order to ensure that Americans are “safe,” it is important to remember that the surveillance programs that were adopted after 9/11 have never actually stopped a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. In the same way that the USA Patriot Act was the opposite of patriotic in 2001, the USA Freedom Act also took away freedom in 2015. Do not be fooled by the title—the USA Liberty Act in 2017 has nothing to do with expanding “liberty.”

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/govt-admits-will-continue-warrantless-spying-not-reauthorized/

Media Silent as Fed Committee Quietly Passes Act Allowing Warrantless Searches

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It has been over one month since the latest dangerous piece of legislation meant to infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights was introduced, and Congress is now moving forward with the bill that will have serious ramifications for all Americans by blatantly violating the freedoms guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment if it becomes law.

The USA Liberty Act has passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 27-8, and as Congressman Justin Amash noted, all privacy advocates should be concerned about the overwhelming support the bill is receiving from Congress.

The Liberty Act passed committee 27-8. It allows the government to search our private data without a warrant—in violation of the 4th Amendment,” Amash wrote on Twitter. “It’s another bill, like the Freedom Act, that furthers violations of our rights under the guise of protecting our rights.”

As Amash implied, the USA Liberty Act provides the opposite of “Liberty” for Americans. Instead, the purpose of the bill is to reauthorize and create additional loopholes for Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2017.

Amash also noted that the USA Liberty Act is yet another piece of legislation that “furthers violations of our rights under the guise of protecting our rights.” He compared it to the USA Freedom Act, which was passed under similar circumstances in June 2015.

The House Judiciary has also tried to use the USA Freedom Act as a reference to its success, claiming that the bill “ended the bulk collection of data, protected civil liberties and national security, and provided robust oversight and transparency of our vital national security tools.”

However, as The Free Thought Project reported in May 2015, the USA Freedom Act “doesn’t actually end or suspend the phone records program, but simply requires phone companies to hold onto these records rather than the NSA.” It also authorized, for the first time, “the NSA, FBI, and other government agencies to unconstitutionally collect data in bulk on potentially millions of law-abiding Americans,” and it let the NSA collect “cell phone records in addition to the landline call records.”

Now, as Congress prepares to pass the USA Liberty Act, it claims the bill will “better protect Americans’ privacy” by requiring the government to have “a legitimate national security purpose” before searching an individual’s database. But what the bill does not advertise is the fact that it does not actually address the legitimate problems that exist with Section 702. The FBI’s “legitimate national security purpose” could be justified by just about any reason the agency chooses to give, and agents will only need supervisory authority in order to search Americans’ metadata.

Weeks before the latest vote, more than 40 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, joined together in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, condemning the USA Liberty Act.

The coalition noted that the bill 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.”

A legislative analysis from the Electronic Freedom Foundation noted that the USA Liberty Act does not institute adequate transparency and oversight measures,” it does not “deal with misuse of the state secrets privilege, which has been invoked to stave off lawsuits against mass surveillance,” and most importantly, it will not “curtail the NSA’s practices of collecting data on innocent people.”

The science surrounding the USA Liberty Act is nothing new—from the time the USA Patriot Act was passed on fear-based propaganda in 2001, the United States Government has used trendy names such as “Freedom” and “Liberty” as an appeal, while working with the mainstream media to politicize any and every tragic attack, in order to convince the American public that they must give up their liberties, in order to ensure temporary security.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/fed-committee-quietly-passes-act-allow-warrantless-searches-data/

Media Silent As Gov’t Uses Vegas Shooting to Push Bill Allowing Warrantless Searches

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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.”

However, as The Free Thought Project previously reported, what the USA Liberty Act does not advertise is the fact that the FBI’s “legitimate national security purpose” could be justified by just about any reason the agency chooses to give, and agents will only need supervisory authority in order to search Americans’ metadata.

As the coalition noted in its letter, “the bill’s current language leaves room for the government to conduct queries and access content for law enforcement purposes without a warrant,” which should be considered a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment.

“The current language does not make clear that the government must have a warrant to access content for law enforcement searches where the purpose may not be to specifically obtain evidence of a crime, or in cases where there may be a dual foreign intelligence and criminal purpose. As such, the bill could still permit the government to conduct queries and access content without a warrant in cases involving criminal investigations and prosecutions.”

The coalition also criticized the USA Liberty Act’s broad consent and emergency exceptions, noting that, “the emergency provision does not parallel analogous provisions in FISA and require imminence or that the government go back to the FISA court for a warrant after beginning the emergency surveillance.”

While the government claims the purpose of FISA is to allow surveillance on the communications of foreign targets who were suspected terrorists, it should be noted that the law has been used to spy on the communications of innocent Americans—despite the practice being ruled illegal—and any reauthorization of the law will only allow the practice to continue under the guise of “preventing terrorism.”

When the USA Patriot Act was passed in 2001, and the USA Freedom Act was passed in 2015, the U.S. government used fear-based propaganda disguised in the form of All-American titled legislation, which was spread without contest by the mainstream media. Section 702 is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2017, which means that Americans will likely see the same game come into play as the government prepares to pass the USA Liberty Act—a bill that is the opposite of its namesake.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/media-silent-usa-liberty-act/

Fact Check Fail or Deliberate Lie? Snopes Gets It Wrong On Story About Warrantless Searches

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Snopes.com has made its name as the truthful source that debunks crazy conspiracy theories and “fake news” on the internet, but its response to a story on legislation allowing warrantless searches is in need of its own fact check.

As Snopes correctly noted, the story in question was published by The Free Thought Project on Aug. 24, and is on the subject of House Joint Resolution 76. What Snopes does not mention is that up until TFTP reported on the legislation, it received virtually no media coverage, aside from criticism from Congressman Justin Amash on social media.

As the original story noted, House Joint Resolution 76 creates the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, which looks harmless on the surface. The bill claims that its purpose is “Granting the consent and approval of Congress for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia to enter into a compact relating to the establishment of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.”

In its “Fact Check” of the story, Snopes made the claim thatThe legislation does not allow authorities all over the U.S. to conduct warrantless searches, as claimed by a number of disreputable web sites.” 

This is 100% true. The legislation does not allow this, at all.SnopesSnopesHowever, The Free Thought Project never made that claim. Here’s what our original report noted about how warrantless searches could result from the creation of this safety commission:

The major red flag that comes from this bill can be found in the list of powers that are given to the safety commission, when it comes to its authority over the properties around surround the metro rail system. As the text of the bill notes:

“In performing its duties, the Commission, through its Board or designated employees or agents, may: Enter upon the WMATA Rail System and, upon reasonable notice and a finding by the chief executive officer that a need exists, upon any lands, waters, and premises adjacent to the WMATA Rail System, including, without limitation, property owned or occupied by the federal government, for the purpose of making inspections, investigations, examinations, and testing as the Commission may deem necessary to carry out the purposes of this MSC Compact, and such entry shall not be deemed a trespass.”

The problem with this legislation is that even if the commission gives advanced notice that it will be entering a private property, that advanced notice is not a search warrant. Under the Fourth Amendment, a search warrant can only be obtained with the consent of a judge, and it must have probable cause laid out by law enforcement.

The bill received unanimous approval in the Senate, and Justin Amash was one of just five members who voted against it in the House. As he noted on Twitter, the bill gives the government the authority to enter and search private property in parts of Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland without a warrant.

Responding to critics on Twitter, Amash wrote, “This bill does authorize a ‪#4thAmendment violation. Congress has a duty not to pass such broad language even if Constitution nullifies it.”

As Amash also noted, the language of the bill is entirely too broad. “‘Safety’ presumably includes preventing criminal/terrorist activities near WMATA. Bill doesn’t contemplate potential abuse of MSC authority,” he wrote.

When a Twitter user insisted that the bill only applies to “federally owned property,” Amash replied, Read carefully. It applies to *any* property ‘adjacent to the WMATA Rail System.’ You ignored the phrase ‘including, without limitation.’”

While Snopes does acknowledge that Amash considers the legislation to be “too broad and potentially unconstitutional,” its entire article is based on the premise that “The legislation does not allow authorities all over the U.S. to conduct warrantless searches, as claimed by a number of disreputable web sites.”

Although Snopes does not list any of these “disreputable web sites,” the only website it does reference is The Free Thought Project, which it describes as a website that mostly posts stories geared towards stoking fear that the government is on the verge of becoming an authoritarian police state.”

However, the article Snopes was attempting to debunk was based entirely on the facts surrounding the bill—its text, who voted for and against it, and how it was interpreted by elected officials who were charged with the power of determining whether it becomes law. Never once did the story claim this bill would affect the entire United States, or that it would completely put an end to the Fourth Amendment.

As for Snopes’ definition of TFTP’s reputation, an outlet that mostly posts stories geared towards stoking fear” sounds a lot like the description of the many mainstream media outlets The Free Thought Project debunks on a regular basis. As for warning that “the government is on the verge of becoming an authoritarian police state,” in many ways that is essentially what the government already is—an authoritarian state that uses violence and intimidation to enforce its laws.

The Free Thought Project is dedicated to exposing stories of government corruption and police misconduct based on facts and evidence, while also fostering the creation and expansion of liberty-minded solutions to modern day tyrannical oppression. If we were solely focused on brainwashed fear-mongering, we would be no better than the mainstream media.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/snopes-wrong-story-warrantless-searches/

Congress Quietly Passed a Bill Allowing Warrantless Searches of Homes—Only 1% Opposed It

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A bill that will allow homes to be searched without a warrant was passed with overwhelming support by the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Trump—and it happened with no media coverage and very little fanfare.

On the surface, House Judiciary Resolution 76 looks harmless. The title of the bill claims that its purpose is Granting the consent and approval of Congress for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia to enter into a compact relating to the establishment of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.”

“Whereas the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, an interstate compact agency of the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the State of Maryland, provides transportation services to millions of people each year, the safety of whom is paramount; Whereas an effective and safe Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority system is essential to the commerce and prosperity of the National Capital region; Whereas the Tri-State Oversight Committee, created by a memorandum of understanding amongst these 3 jurisdictions, has provided safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.”

The proposal for a safety commission to act as a wing of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority may sound logical, when its power includes thing such as the ability to Adopt, revise, and distribute a written State Safety Oversight Program” and to “Review, approve, oversee, and enforce the adoption and implementation of WMATA’s Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan.”

However, there is one major red flag buried within the text of the bill that stems from the list of “powers” given to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, and it violates one of the basic tenants of the U.S. Constitution.

“In performing its duties, the Commission, through its Board or designated employees or agents, may: Enter upon the WMATA Rail System and, upon reasonable notice and a finding by the chief executive officer that a need exists, upon any lands, waters, and premises adjacent to the WMATA Rail System, including, without limitation, property owned or occupied by the federal government, for the purpose of making inspections, investigations, examinations, and testing as the Commission may deem necessary to carry out the purposes of this MSC Compact, and such entry shall not be deemed a trespass.”

The text gives the Commission the authority to enter property near the Metro Rail System “without limitation” and without a warrant, for the purpose of “making inspections, investigations, examinations, and testing.”

This clearly goes against the Fourth Amendment, which states that Americans’ rights 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.”

When the bill was brought to a vote in the House of Representatives, there were only five Congressmen who voted against it: Representatives Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan; Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina; Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky; Alex Mooney, a Republican from West Virginia; and Mark Sanford, a Republican from South Carolina.

Amash called out the hypocrisy surrounding the fact that even though this legislation is in clear violation of the Constitution, it was passed by Congress with overwhelming support. Only 5 of us voted against bill allowing govt to enter/search private property in parts of VA, MD & DC w/o warrant,” He wrote on Twitter.

This is not the first time Congress has quietly passed a bill that will take away some of the most basic rights from law-abiding citizens in the U.S., and it won’t be the last. One of the most important things to remember about this legislation is that it was ignored by the media, and while it may only affect the Washington D.C. metro area now, it could be laying the blueprint for future legislation across the country.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/congress-passes-bill-allowing-homes-searched-without-warrant/