Justin Amash spokesman: The USA Freedom Act is a sham

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), unhappy with last-minute alterations to the USA Freedom Act — a bill he cosponsored when it began being formulated a year ago — concluded Thursday that he could no longer support the bill as it currently stands.

The bill stipulates that the only thing the government cannot do is demand, for instance, a phone company hand over all of its data in real time. But that doesn’t stop the government from being able to obtain pretty much any information it desires on a whim-to-whim basis.

Here’s how the Counterintelligence Access to Telephone Toll and Transactional Records or Section 2709(b) of title 18, United States code originally read:

a) Duty to Provide.— A wire or electronic communication service provider shall comply with a request for subscriber information and toll billing records information, or electronic communication transactional records in its custody or possession made by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under subsection (b) of this section.

(b) Required Certification.— The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or his designee in a position not lower than Deputy Assistant Director at Bureau headquarters or a Special Agent in Charge in a Bureau field office designated by the Director, may—

(1) request the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records of a person or entity if the Director (or his designee) certifies in writing to the wire or electronic communication service provider to which the request is made that the name, address, length of service, and toll billing records sought are relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such an investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely on the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and

(2) request the name, address, and length of service of a person or entity if the Director (or his designee) certifies in writing to the wire or electronic communication service provider to which the request is made that the information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such an investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

That has been amended ever-so-slightly. Where the word “may” appears at the end of section (b) “may, using a specific selection term as the basis for a request” has been added.

Similar minor alterations to the code occurred, making this new phrase “specific selection term” a prerequisite for requesting data. As defined in the bill, specific selection term means “a term used to uniquely describe a person, entity, or account.”

What this means is that “bulk collection” as the public understands it — invasive, pervasive, intrusive and unconstitutional — can still occur, but just in more specific ways.

“This morning’s bill maintains and codifies a large-scale, unconstitutional domestic spying program,” Amash wrote on Facebook. “It claims to end ‘bulk collection of ‘Americans’ data only in a very technical sense: The bill prohibits the government from, for example, ordering a telephone company to turn over all its call records every day.”

Amash’s Chief of Staff, Will Adams, told Rare that “the government can go to AT&T and say hand over all of your phone records from any broad set of data.” He added that there are “no new limits on collection programs” and even called the bill “a sham.”

In addition to this, the USA Freedom Act extends the Patriot Act’s section 215 until 2017. The controversial section, which allows the FBI to “order any person or entity to turn over ‘any tangible things,’ so long as the FBI ‘specif[ies]’ that the order is ‘for an authorized investigation … to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities,’” was set to expire in 2015.

The Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow did note that the bill does include “some provisions that improve current law, including a requirement that the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves surveillance requests, publish its significant opinions for the public to see.”

“The bill also allows, without a requirement, the FISC to appoint lawyers to argue on Americans’ behalf,” Schow added.

“The American people demand that the Constitution be respected, that our rights and liberties be secured, and that the government stay out of our private lives,” Amash continued on his Facebook page. “Fortunately, there is a growing group of representatives on both sides of the aisle who get it.”

“We will succeed,” Amash concluded.

The USA Freedom Act passed the House on a vote of 303-121.


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