“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”—Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act.
Earlier this year, in January, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) sent a memo to Wyden admitting it was violating the Constitutional rights of innocent Americans by using loopholes to spy on them. The bill was also introduced during a week in which the public learned that the U.S. Post Office has been acting as a spy agency.
The bill, according to a press release from Wyden’s office, will close “the legal loophole that allows data brokers to sell Americans’ personal information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies without any court oversight – in contrast to the strict rules for phone companies, social media sites and other businesses that have direct relationships with consumers.”
Paul said: “The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure ensures that the liberty of every American cannot be violated on the whims, or financial transactions, of every government official. This critical legislation will end the government’s practice of buying its way around the Bill of Rights by purchasing the personal and location data of everyday Americans. Enacting the Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act will not only stop this gross abuse of privacy but also stands for the fundamental principle that government exists to protect, not trade away individual rights.”
Wyden said: “Doing business online doesn’t amount to giving the government permission to track your every movement or rifle through the most personal details of your life. There’s no reason information scavenged by data brokers should be treated differently than the same data held by your phone company or email provider. This bill closes that legal loophole and ensures that the government can’t use its credit card to end-run the Fourth Amendment.”
In the January memo, the DIA admitted it was warrantlessly tracking the moves of innocent Americans through commercial software. It was the first time the government has made such an admission. The DIA admitted such tracking has gone on since late in the Obama administration and throughout the Trump administration.
Judge Andrew Napolitano described the justification made by the DIA as “breathtaking.”
“It argues that because it is not law enforcement, it is not subject to the constitutional restraints imposed upon law enforcement as interpreted by the Supreme Court,” Napolitano wrote. “This is an argument that the court has never accepted. The DIA, apparently, thinks it is a law unto itself.”
Napolitano added: “When it comes to surveillance, there is no exception to this. The Fourth Amendment serves a dual purpose. The first is to prevent fishing expeditions — such as the very acts the DIA now admits it utilizes — in violation of the natural right to privacy. The second is to compel the government to focus its resources on those suspects as to whom it has a judicially recognized probable cause of crime.”
This isn’t the first time Paul and Wyden have teamed up on civil liberty issues. In February, the senators reintroduced the REPUBLIC Act, which would “require congressional approval of national emergency declarations and to repeal the emergency powers and authorities most susceptible to abuse, and for other purposes.”
Paul and Wyden have introduced bills in the past to protect the Fourth Amendment. This week on the Fox Business Channel, Wyden said he was encouraged with the potential for this bill passing despite such bills not being successful in the past. Wyden noted this bill includes members in leadership, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who have cosponsored it.
Schumer is one of 18 cosponsors in the senate. Included are two Republican cosponsors, Steve Daines of Montana and Mike Lee of Utah. Democrat cosponsors include Tammy Baldwin (W.I.), Richard Blumenthal (C.T.), Cory Booker (NJ), Sherrod Brown (O.H.), Maria Cantwell (W.A.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Mazie Hirono (H.I.), Patrick Leahy (V.A.), Ed Markey (M.A.), Jeff Merkley (OR), Patty Murray (W.A.), Bernie Sanders (V.T.), Brian Schatz (H.I.), Jon Tester (M.T.) and Elizabeth Warren (M.A.).
The Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act was also introduced in the House by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY).
Article originally published on The Liberty Loft.
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About the Author:
Seth Hancock is a newspaper reporter with over 14 years of journalism experience in the Chicago suburbs. He has a journalism degree from Western Illinois University.