Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) are leading the charge to shut down warrantless backdoor surveillance of U.S. citizens. They have introduced an amendment into the 2017 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, which “would prohibit warrantless backdoor searches of U.S. citizens’ online communications without first obtaining a warrant.” It would also prevent the government from forcing individuals and companies to insert backdoors into their products for “surveillance purposes.”
By requiring a warrant to conduct surveillance on Americans, this amendment strikes the appropriate balance between national security and civil liberty and is a much needed next step as Congress continues to rein in the surveillance state and reassert the Fourth Amendment,” said Rep. Massie in a press release.
“This amendment is the most meaningful step Congress can take to end warrantless bulk collection of US persons’ communications data, as well as protect that data from malicious hackers and bad actors,” said Representative Lofgren. “The House has shown – by voting for the amendment by a large margin twice over the last two years – that it is committed to upholding the Constitution and protecting Americans from invasions of their privacy. With threats to America, we should not endanger the security of our digital environment by weakening encryption that protects everything from the power grid to air traffic control.”
Currently, under federal law, much of Americans’ private information is collected by various intelligence agencies without a warrant. In addition, Massie’s press release claims, “Intelligence officials have confirmed to Congress that law enforcement agencies actively search the content of this intercepted data without probable cause, and have used evidence gathered to assist in criminal prosecutions.”
An identical amendment to the 2016 Department of Defense Appropriations Act last year passed the House 255-174, but was not included in the omnibus bill that was passed. The previous year, the House passed it with a veto-proof majority.
The House is expected to vote on the amendment this morning. Additional co-sponsors include Representatives Justin Amash (R-MI), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Raul Labrador (R-ID).