Major Blow to Email Privacy Hidden in 2017 Intelligence Auth. Bill

Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY)
Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY)

May 27, 2016—The Intercept has a report on the 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act that fails to mention important details both about the bill in question and the congressmen and senators who are standing in opposition to the piece of legislation.

Instead, the piece simply praises Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon) for being the only lawmaker sitting in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence who opposes the bill.

Unlike what The Intercept reported, H.R. 5077, or the Intelligence Authorization Act, originated in the House of Representatives in April of 2016.

On May 24, the bill passed the House of Representatives, where liberty-minded Republicans such as Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Justin Amash (R-MI), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Raúl Labrador all voted against the measure.

Once the bill was sent to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Wyden published a statement on his website claiming that the bill is toxic to the security and privacy of the American people.

Here’s a quote from the release:

Senator_Ron_Wyden_chatting_with_John_Heilemann_of_New_York_Magazine_(6256752776)“This bill takes a hatchet to Important protections for Americans’ liberty. … This bill would mean more government surveillance of Americans, less due process and less independent oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies. Worse, neither the intelligence agencies, nor the bill’s sponsors have shown any evidence that these changes would do anything to make Americans more secure. I plan to work with colleagues in both chambers to reverse these dangerous provisions.”

Included in Wyden’s statement are the explanations on his opposition to at least two of the provisions that are part of the bill.

According to the Oregon senator, H.R. 5077 would allow “the FBI to obtain Americans’ email records with only a National Security Letter,” while also “Narrowing the jurisdiction of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), for the second consecutive year.”

Also according to Wyden, this move would “limit the PCLOB to examining only programs that impact the privacy rights of U.S. citizens,” discouraging “oversight of programs when the impact on Americans’ rights is unclear.”

In a statement to The Intercept, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation Andrew Crocker said that “it should go without saying that the information the FBI wants to include in the statue is extremely revealing—URLs, for example, may reveal the content of a website that users have visited, their location, and so on. … And it’s particularly sneaky because this bill is debated behind closed doors.”

This past Tuesday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) issued a statement claiming that the 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act will make us safer. But according to Wyden, supporters of the bill are still unable to prove intrusive policies work.

Do you believe Sen. Wyden is right to stand against this bill? Share your thoughts with us!