‘Follow the Damn Constitution’ Freshman Rep. Ted Lieu Tells NSA

May 1, 2015—Over 96 percent of incumbents were re-elected to Congress last election, but one freshman lawmaker’s challenge to mass surveillance shows that the new blood in the House will be heard.

During hearings of the 1932718_324176987778961_93284286348461416_oHouse Subcommittee on Information Technology, Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) refused to swallow the Kool-Aid talking points from Daniel Conley, a district attorney from Boston lobbying for more power to be given to law enforcement. Conley’s concern was that the public, in response to NSA revelations from Ed Snowden, was defensively arming themselves with encryption technology to block unconstitutional government spying.

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Conley went so far as to say, “When unaccountable corporate interests place crucial evidence beyond the legitimate reach of our courts, they are in fact placing those who rape, defraud, assault and even kill in a position of profound advantage over victims and society.”

The freshman Lieu wasn’t buying it and wasn’t going to let that go unaddressed. Watch Lieu’s comments here, and read his words below with the important points emboldened by this writer.

“Mr. Conley, I respect your public service. I take great offense at your testimony today. You mentioned that unaccountable corporate interests such as Apple and Google are essentially protecting those who rape, defraud, assault, or kill. I think that’s offensive. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem.

Why do you think Apple and Google are doing this? It’s because the public is demanding it. People like me, privacy advocates, a public that doesn’t want an out of control surveillance state. It is the public that is asking for this. Apple and Google didn’t do this because they thought they’d make less money. This is a private sector response to government overreach.

Then you make another statement, that somehow these technology companies are not credible because they also collect private data. Well, here’s the difference. Apple and Google don’t have coercive power. District attorneys do, the FBI does, the NSA does, and to me it’s very simple to draw the privacy balance when it comes to law enforcement and privacy. Just follow the damn Constitution.

And because the NSA didn’t do that and other law enforcement agencies didn’t do that, you’re seeing a vast public reaction to this. Because the NSA, your colleagues, have essentially violated 4th Amendment rights of every American citizen for years by seizing all of our phone records, by collecting our internet traffic, that now is spilling over to other aspects of law enforcement and if you want to get this fixed, I suggest you write an essay and the FBI should tell the NSA, ‘Stop violating our rights,’ and then maybe you’d have the public much more on the side of supporting some of what law enforcement is asking for.

And then let me just conclude by saying I do agree with law enforcement that we live in a dangerous world. And that’s why our founders put in the Constitution of the United States, that’s why they put in the 4th Amendment, ’cause they understand that an Orwellian overreaching federal government is one of the most dangerous things this world can have. I yield back.”

This is not Congressman Ted Lieu’s first foray into pushing back against unconstitutional mass surveillance. As a state senator in California, Lieu, a Democrat, joined forces with State Senator Joel Anderson, a Republican, to write and pass the California Fourth Amendment Protection Act. Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation into law, which says the state will not cooperate with or use its resources to support federal requests to strengthen its mass surveillance.

Do you think Ted Lieu is the new champion for privacy on Capitol Hill? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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