Justin Amash appears on Fox News Sunday, slams NSA surveillance

The distinctions between a government that adheres to constitutional limitations and a government that runs roughshod over the Bill of Rights were heard yesterday on Fox News Sunday.

General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, defended the programs being employed to surveil Americans accused of no crime and said that efforts to limit them would put the country at risk. He also proclaimed that there is no expectation of privacy when it comes to third-party records, including phone records collected by the NSA.

But Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) disputed this notion, explaining that the Founding Fathers put the Fourth Amendment to protect Americans from an overreaching government.

“[I]t’s precisely because we live in this dangerous world that we need protections like the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution,” Amash told Chis Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday. “The Framers of the Constitution put it in place precisely because they were worried that you would have national security justifications for violating people’s rights.”

“They weren’t worried that the government was going to say, ‘Well, we want to come into your home to host a nice dinner party,’ or ‘We want your papers because we want to find some recipes.’ he added. “They were worried about national security justifications for violating people’s rights. And in a dangerous world, you need the Fourth Amendment — you need the Constitution.”

Amash was the sponsor of an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would have denied funding to execute a FISA court order that isn’t specific to a person who is the subject of an investigation. The amendment was opposed by President Barack Obama, congressional leadership from both parties, and the intelligence community.

Though the amendment was defeated late last month in a very close, 205-217 vote, it has set off a long overdue public debate over the balance between security and privacy.

Hayden, who once said that the words “probable cause” don’t appear in the Fourth Amendment (they do), told Wallace that the intelligence community uses the “lightest touch possible” to gather information that could help thwart terrorist attacks.

Amash disputed the notion that the program was limited and explained that it could, at some point in the future, be expanded to include actual content of phone conversations.

“[Y]ou’re collecting the phone records of every single American in the United States. It’s important to understand that what the Justice Department and intelligence community are relying on is a third party doctrine,” said Amash. “They are saying that because you’ve given your data, because it’s shared with a third party, it becomes a public property.”

“And it’s important to understand that it then goes beyond metadata. So, we start with metadata but the government is not suggesting that it can’t collect your actual communications. It can’t collect your content,” noted Amash. “Under this doctrine, they certainly can collect your content just as they can collect your metadata. And metadata itself can tell you a whole host of information about a person’s life with the kind of computer power we have today.”

Amash noted that the effort to strengthen privacy protections is ongoing. He pointed to the LIBERT-E Act, a measure that would reform controversial parts of the PATRIOT Act through which the NSA is claiming its power to surveil Americans. He added that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte is “very committed” to working this legislation through the process.

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