Just days after voting down several gun related bills in defense of the Second Amendment, Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds voted to undermine the Fourth Amendment and grant the FBI the power to gather transaction email, chat, and web browsing data without a warrant or judicial oversight via National Security Letters (NSL). Senator Rounds even co-sponsored the measure.
Republicans are taking advantage of the shooting tragedy in Orlando to push the measure, but as noted in the Christian Science Monitor:
Though I am a life long Republican, I’m not a big fan of John Thune. I tend to prefer the more constitutionally aligned Republican’s such as Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul. I think of Thune as a Surveillance State Republican. He’s happy to give up our Fourth Amendment rights when anyone in an intelligence agency says it might help stop a terrorist. I fear rattle snakes, mountain lions, and cows more than I fear terrorists, and I’d just as soon keep my constitutional rights.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will make permanent nonsensical laws which prevent farmers from actually owning their farm equipment, and turn farmers that that diagnose, repair, and/or modify their farm equipment into criminals.
First, some background. TPP is a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries. The stated goal of the agreement is to,
“promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.”
Senator John Thune sponsored the Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015 which passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent a few weeks ago. Per the Congressional Research Service (CRS):
This bill makes a provision of a form contract void from the inception if it:
(1) prohibits or restricts an individual who is a party to such a contract from engaging in written, verbal, or pictorial reviews, or other similar performance assessments or analyses of, the products, services, or conduct of a person that is also a party to the contract;
(2) imposes penalties or fees against individuals who engage in such communications; or
(3) transfers or requires the individual to transfer any intellectual property rights in any such otherwise lawful communications about such person or the goods or services provided by such person.
One year ago, Senator John Thune penned an op-ed where he stated that,
“Under Republican control, the Senate will get back to work, returning to regular order, which means bills will be considered out in the open in committees before coming to the Senate floor, and all senators, regardless of party, will have a chance to propose and debate amendments.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t follow the Senate that closely, but here’s what I’ve observed this past year:
Senators Rounds and Thune dealt a severe blow to consumer privacy when they helped to pass Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) on Oct 27th 2015. From Senator Round’s press release,
The bipartisan cyber security bill we passed in the Senate today will help protect Americans from such cyber-attacks by allowing companies to share information about cyber-threats to prevent other businesses from falling victim to similar threats. It does so while protecting Americans’ private information from being shared and is 100 percent voluntary.
Senator Thune hosted a field hearing on the topic of cyber-security at Dakota State University. You can read all about it at KELOLAND.com. I’m happy to see that Sen. Thune is seeking input from industry experts in an open forum. Hopefully that information will aid in the crafting of sensible cyber-security legislation. Kudos to Sen Thune for this.
Unfortunately, Senator Thune still used to opportunity to promote CISA, the cyber-security legislation that was crafted absent public input in closed door sessions of the Senate Intelligence Committee. If you don’t recall, CISA could actually make us less secure.
Defying all logic, both Senators Thune and Rounds voted to renew the Patriot Act as is without changes. The Patriot Act was set to sunset on June 1st, 2015. Though the Patriot Act had been renewed in the past, this time was different. In May 2013, Edward Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents to several journalists which shed light on how the Patriot Act was being actually being used. One of the most startling revelations was that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been collecting the phone records of virtually every American on a daily basis. This gave rise to a number of developments:
It’s already clear that the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) isn’t really needed, and may actually make the nation’s cyber-security worse. So why then, has the Senate Intelligence Committee along with Senator Thune and the Republican leadership been pushing so hard to pass this seemingly bad legislation? I think the answer may lay in its true purpose, domestic surveillance.
This article provides a good summary of just how CISA could be used for domestic surveillance, and how the information collected could be used by the government for purposes beyond cyber-security.
When enacted, Section 215 of the Patriot Act allowed the government to collect tangible things such as documents, records, and papers to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a US citizen or to protect against international terrorism.
In 2006, Section 215 was set to expire. Congress renewed the provision, but not without changes. To prevent mass data collection on Americans, the provision was amended such that the Government’s order include “a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.”
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