Very little has been done in the last several years on a bipartisan basis on any issue. HR 1466 could change that, at least on one issue. What is HR 1466? It is the most sweeping anti-surveillance measure the Congress has attempted, and it has brought at least some Democrats and Republicans together.
The issue of surveillance, especially on a massive scale, is an issue that can ignite passions on both sides of the aisle. Both liberals and libertarians find themselves on the same side here without much of an effort or compromise. Both groups have rallied against excessive government monitoring traditionally. Of course, in past elections some groups and individuals on both sides of the aisle abandoned principles for cheap votes. Maybe that is changing.
What the bill specifically does is repeal the Patriot Act. It also repeals many provisions in the FISA Act and eliminates all of the mass telephone and meta data collection efforts. But in addition to all that, it repeals an act signed into law by none other than Ronald Reagan over 30 years ago: Executive Order Number 12333. That executive order (and subsequent amendments) is what gives the president and executive branch a lot of their “legal authority” to implement many of the controversial programs we have seen since 9-11.
Reps. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), and Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) are original co-sponsors on the bill, which was submitted March 19.
Congressmen Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Marc Pocan (D-Wis.) introduced the bill in a staffer meeting Tuesday. Pocan declared:
This isn’t just tinkering around the edges, it’s a meaningful overhaul that makes sure the meaningless surveillance of emails and cell phones are done away with.
Congress has struggled in rolling back the legislation since it’s inception despite pleas from various civil liberties groups. In 2013, Edward Snowden blew the lid off of many of the government surveillance programs, outraging many. But again, not much was done in response regarding the massive and random spying, or protecting whistle blowers who exposed abuses and law breaking. Anything large has stalled and the “tinkering” some have done haven’t resulted in much change at the end of the day.
But this effort seems to be a little different with both liberal and Tea Party caucus support. At least in some places, the paranoid fear-mongering that the Patriot Act allowed for seems to be subsiding.
“All mass surveillance does is violate the rights and put a chilling effect on the American people, causing people to change their behavior because they’re afraid of government spying,” said national security and civil liberties policy analyst for the CATO Institute Patrick Eddington at a meeting earlier this week.
If enacted, the bill would take away all the legal justifications by repealing the programs under FISA and the Patriot Act that allow indiscriminate collection and no warrant access to our communications in America. For example, it would repeal the amendment that permits email harvesting, with only a few exceptions. HR 1466 would make it illegal to survey individuals without a warrant and probable cause. The bill also mandates domestic surveillance programs be monitored for compliance by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The bill does retain key elements important to counter-terrorism efforts by intelligence agencies and law enforcement, such as the ability to target specific individuals, foreign or domestic, through various communication channels. It also allows the government to gather intelligence that involves weapons of mass destruction.
This makes so much sense it will be a miracle if it makes it through Congress. At least without a draconian anti-abortion, voter suppression measure, or “repeal Obamacare” stunt attached to it. That is if HR 1466 ever comes up for a vote.