The same FBI holding up the Hillary Clinton classified situation is quietly and perniciously seeking to cut more holes in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
That amendment — which requires the government to obtain a search warrant issued by a judge based upon some evidence of criminal wrongdoing, called probable cause, before the government can search persons, houses, papers or effects — is the linchpin of the right to privacy, famously referred to by Justice Louis Brandeis as the right to be let alone.
Now the FBI wants access to everyone’s internet browser history, as long as its agents are looking for spies or terrorists; and again, it proposes that rather than present probable cause to a judge and seek a warrant as the Fourth Amendment requires, one FBI agent be authorized to issue a search warrant to another.
They almost got it!
Privacy-minded senators on Wednesday blocked an amendment that would give the FBI power to take internet records, including browser histories and email metadata, without a court order. But the victory may be fleeting.
Just one vote kept the measure from clearing a 60-vote procedural hurdle, and political arm-twisting may soon result in a second vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., switched his vote to “no” to allow reconsideration in the near future. That made the final tally 58-38, with four senators not voting.
Critics of the proposed expansion of the FBI’s ability to demand records with national security letters, or NSLs, are urging opponents to flood their senators with calls. There were some unexpected “yes” votes, such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who they hope to flip as some of the four senators who did not vote are viewed as tougher sells.
“It’s obviously a good thing that this didn’t move forward in the Senate,” says Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “This would be an expansion of the Patriot Act and a very substantial one that would allow the FBI to get what many people consider their most sensitive information.”
“It’s important that the public contact their senators and say, ‘We don’t want this expansion of the Patriot Act,'” she says. “There were a lot of members who voted in favor who you wouldn’t expect. This is a situation where you could see a lot of pressure on members to change their votes, which is why it’s important the public understands the stakes here.”
And don’t expect your internet service provider to tell you that the FBI has come calling, as this legislation would prohibit the service provider from telling you that your records have been accessed. This provision violates the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”
Wake up, America. How many congressional assaults on the Constitution will we tolerate?
Since the government apparently does not take its obligation to uphold the Constitution seriously, why bother with requiring one FBI agent to authorize another? Why not let any FBI agent search wherever he or she wants, break down any door, seize any records and invade anyone’s privacy, lest compliance with the Constitution is a pain in the neck.
Wake up, America. The Constitution has become a pain in the neck to our personal liberties, because as a safeguard of them, it apparently no longer works.
Did you know this was coming up for a vote? This almost passed if it were not one vote short! What do you think about that? Share your thoughts below in the comment section and add this to your Facebook and Twitter page.