LLPH urges all members of the House of Representatives to vote NO on H.R. 2048, USA Freedom Act of 2015, offered by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI 5). While this bill does make some reforms to the NSA, it fails to recognize some essential facts: the NSA is not constitutional and if nothing is done, the program is finished. Proponents of the bill argue that this bill is the only alternative to a clean reauthorization. That is far from true. If nothing is done, then three key sections of the Patriot Act will expire this year, and Congress should do the right things and let it simply go away.
The USA Freedom Act has several infringements on our civil liberties:
Section 801 of the bill (USA Freedom Act):
(g)(1) CIVIL FORFEITURE.—Any real or personal property used or intended to be used to commit or to facilitate the commission of a violation of this section, the gross proceeds of such violation, and any real or personal property traceable to such property or proceeds, shall be subject to forfeiture.
“(2) Applicable procedures.—Seizures and forfeitures under this section shall be governed by the provisions of chapter 46 of title 18, United States Code, relating to civil forfeitures, except that such duties as are imposed upon the Secretary of the Treasury under the customs laws described in section 981(d) shall be performed by such officers, agents, and other persons as may be designated for that purpose by the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, or the Secretary of Defense.”
The USA Freedom Act reauthorizes key parts of the Patriot Act as admitted in the summary of the bill. It also increases punishments without regard for due process. These are all included in the “national security” parts of the bill.
Increases from 15 to 20 years the maximum penalty of imprisonment for providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization in cases where the support does not result in the death of any person.
Amends the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to extend until December 15, 2019, FISA authorities concerning: (1) the production of business records, including call detail records and other tangible things; (2) roving electronic surveillance orders; and (3) a revised definition of “agent of a foreign power” that includes any non-U.S. persons who engage in international terrorism or preparatory activities (commonly referred to as the “lone wolf” provision).
Liberty Party Reps. Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Jim Jordan, David Schweikert, Raul Labrador, and others proposed key amendments which would have improved the bill and enhanced civil liberty protections. NO AMENDMENTS were allowed by the House Rules Committee. At this point, we have no choice but to believe that supporters of this bill are not interested in protecting our civil liberties. In fact, this bill is praised by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Attorney General Loretta Lynch:
“The Intelligence Community believes that the bill preserves the essential operational capabilities of the telephone metadata program and enhances other intelligence capabilities needed to protect our nation and its partners,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote in a letter to senators Monday. “In the absence of legislation, important intelligence authorities will expire on June 1.”
Note the last line. If Congress does NOTHING, then the Patriot Act’s three main provisions will expire and one unconstitutional part of the government will be gone. That is exactly what should be done to defend the Constitution. Therefore, LLPH urges all members to not accept the premise that the only choices are the USA Freedom Act or a clean reauthorization. It is NOT true. There is a third choice and that is to allow the provisions to expire and the NSA to end.