By Jay Syrmopoulos
In a sneak attack on the civil liberties of all Americans, the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2015 was rushed to the House floor with virtually no debate.
The legislation was scheduled for only a “voice vote,” which means that it is simply declared “passed” with voice votes and no record.
This is considered the simplest and quickest voting method, not what one would expect from such an important piece of legislation. For most pieces of major legislation, a roll call vote would be the standard operating procedure.
Thankfully, Representative Justin Amash, when catching wind of what was transpiring, went to the House floor to demand a roll call vote so that everyone would have to have their vote recorded.
The fact that this important piece of legislation was handled in this way indicates that this was done intentionally to sneak it past the public eye. It becomes even more suspicious when you realize that it was done concurrently with the CIA torture report being released and the Gruber hearing.
It seems clear there was an effort made to slip the vote by without having to answer to the American people, as Congress is well aware that Americans do not want to be spied upon by their government after the revelations by Edward Snowden.
Congressman Justin Amash stated that when he learned this bill was “being rushed to the floor for a vote… I asked my legislative staff to quickly review the bill for unusual language.”
What he says next should raise red flags for every American citizen.
He claims what his staff discovered was:
“One of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative: It grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American.”
The bill in question is H.R. 4681.
Rep. Amash wrote a last minute letter to all of his colleagues in Congress to implore them to vote “NO” on H.R. 4681.
Here is the text of that letter:
The intelligence reauthorization bill, which the House will vote on today, contains a troubling new provision that for the first time statutorily authorizes spying on U.S. citizens without legal process.
Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of the intelligence reauthorization bill with a new Sec. 309—one the House never has considered. Sec. 309 authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of nonpublic communications, including those to and from U.S. persons. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.
To be clear, Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena. The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.
Supporters of Sec. 309 claim that the provision actually reins in the executive branch’s power to retain Americans’ private communications. It is true that Sec. 309 includes exceedingly weak limits on the executive’s retention of Americans’ communications. With many exceptions, the provision requires the executive to dispose of Americans’ communications within five years of acquiring them—although, as HPSCI admits, the executive branch already follows procedures along these lines.
In exchange for the data retention requirements that the executive already follows, Sec. 309 provides a novel statutory basis for the executive branch’s capture and use of Americans’ private communications. The Senate inserted the provision into the intelligence reauthorization bill late last night. That is no way for Congress to address the sensitive, private information of our constituents—especially when we are asked to expand our government’s surveillance powers.
I urge you to join me in voting “no” on H.R. 4681, the intelligence reauthorization bill, when it comes before the House today.
Member of Congress
This bill will allow information gained from domestic spying by the feds, in the name of “terrorism,” to be transferred to local law enforcement for criminal investigations without any type of court order, subpoena or warrant.
This is one of the most drastic changes in U.S. law in our lifetimes and has the potential to turn the U.S. into a true police state.
When the feds take what is claimed to be a means of fighting “terrorism” and use it as means of forwarding criminal prosecutions against American citizens, without any court order or warrant, we are on the brink of total tyranny.
We urge everyone to call their Representative and let them know that you do not support H.R. 4681… tell them NO new domestic spying powers!!
Please help get the word out and share this information with your fellow Americans!
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Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, freethinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has previously been published on BenSwann.com and WeAreChange.org. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.
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Contributed by Jay Syrmopoulos of The Free Thought Project.