Summer of Surveillance

Floor Speech

By: Ted Poe
By: Ted Poe
Date: June 11, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker:

The administration puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide. No more illegal wiretapping of citizens. No more ignoring the law when it is convenient. That is not who we are. That is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers and that justice is not arbitrary. This administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It's not.

Mr. Speaker, that was candidate Obama in the year 2007 when he was attacking another administration, but that was then and this is now. How times have changed. Flash forward to the summer of 2013, the Summer of Surveillance. The Department of Justice seized information from 20 different Associated Press phone lines. The Department of Justice seized phone records of FOXNews reporter James Rosen, his parents, and several FOXNews phone lines.

The NSA, which I call the National Surveillance Agency, seized from Verizon Business Network Services millions of telephone records, including the location, numbers, and time of domestic calls. Thursday, we learned about another secret government program called PRISM that allows the NSA to search photos, emails, and documents from computers at Apple, Google, and Microsoft, among many other Internet sources.

Mr. Speaker, the American people have lost trust in this government. Do you think? The government spooks are drunk on power, and it's time for Congress to intervene to prevent the invasion of privacy by government against the citizens.

The administration says its snooping activities are lawful. Well, not so fast. Let's start with the PATRIOT Act, which needs to be reviewed, but let's look at it as it now stands. The PATRIOT Act requires ``a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to foreign intelligence, international terrorism or espionage investigation.''

I see no way that the National Surveillance Agency could be lawfully conducting such a widespread and intrusive fishing expedition based on the PATRIOT Act or FISA. They're supposed to be justifying each individual search based on lawful grounds, not snooping, prying, and spying through tons of data hoping to find a hit on some bad guy. In other words, the government should only be able to collect phone records with a court order for someone they have reasonable suspicion to be connected with a terrorist. Government cannot use a Soviet-style dragnet approach hoping to catch a big fish while also catching the endangered species of freedom.

What the PATRIOT Act does not allow is widespread, warrantless invasions of privacy where government blindly snoops around looking for some mischief. But the government claims it got some bad guys--two or three terrorists, it says. Well, if so, show us the cases. Those cases should be public if charges were filed. But that still doesn't justify the invasion of privacy.

Let me continue. The administration could also be seizing emails of citizens over 6 months old without a warrant in its snooping frenzy. Unfortunately, the law allows this to occur. This needs to be changed.

Representative Zoe Lofgren and I are trying to fix that with legislation to reform the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act by requiring a warrant for government to search and seize emails. Such a basic constitutional requirement should be made the law when government wants to arbitrarily take people's emails.

The bullying and badgering of the Fourth Amendment must cease. The Federal Government tries to scare the citizens and arbitrarily redlines the Fourth Amendment.

Mr. Speaker, technology may have changed over the years, but the Constitution just does not. We can have security, but not at the cost of losing individual freedom because to quote the constitutional law professor, there should be no ``choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide.''

But the Summer of Surveillance continues.

And that's just the way it is.