W e all know what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–CA 12th) thinks about President Donald Trump. Standing on the floor of Congress, she criticized the commander-in-chief as “an ongoing threat to our national security.” She told reporters that he is “the most dangerous person in the history of our country.” She even took the extraordinary measure of filing articles of impeachment against the president for abusing his power.
So why would she give Donald Trump dangerous powers to spy on what we say and do online?
The Truth about the PATRIOT Act
Since September 11th, 2001, law enforcement and intelligence agents have abused surveillance laws like the PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to spy on journalists, political activists, and hundreds of millions of ordinary people like you and me. For years, government officials hid the purpose and scope of their spying activities from public oversight by routinely lying to Congress.
Thanks to information revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, American courts declared significant portions of the government’s warrantless data collection programs to be both illegal and unconstitutional. Yet the NSA and the Department of Justice have continued engaging in dragnet surveillance in the United States.
Intelligence officials justify their criminal behavior by claiming that these domestic spying programs are necessary to keep Americans safe from terrorism. But the government’s own internal review board found that decades of invasive, bulk data collection on innocent Americans never prevented a terrorist attack or saved anyone’s life.
Hope for change
Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is up for renewal once more, and leadership in Congress seems hell-bent on allowing American law enforcement and intelligence agencies to violate Americans’ privacy and waste hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on these invasive and completely ineffective surveillance programs.
Senators Ron Wyden (D–OR) and Steve Daines (R–MT) have co-authored an important amendment that would require the government to get a warrant before collecting data about your online activities. Unfortunately, this common-sense amendment fell one vote short of passing the Senate … largely because four supportive Senators were absent from Congress, and unable to cast their votes. But there’s still hope for this important privacy protection to pass into law.
Next week, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on renewing the government’s surveillance powers via the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act. As Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi has the power to force the House to consider the Wyden-Daines amendment, too. Bipartisan support from representatives such as Zoe Lofgren (D–CA 19th), Warren Davidson (R–OH 8th), and Pramila Jayapal (D–WA 7th) ensures that the amended bill will have no trouble passing the House and moving on to the Senate once more, where it will pass easily if given a second chance.
Nancy Pelosi must save Internet privacy
Now more than ever, the American public needs privacy protections. Nancy Pelosi recently attacked Trump’s hand-picked attorney general for “going rogue” and “deeply damaging the rule of law.” She accused the Trump Administration of committing a “dangerous assault on our fundamental values of equality and justice.” Just think about what Trump and his accomplices will do with warrantless access to our Internet activities. How much more damage will be done to the rule of law in America if Congress refuses to protect our most basic rights? How many more assaults can our values sustain before they are irreparably broken?
Passing the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act without the Wyden-Daines amendment would make Nancy Pelosi the ultimate hypocrite, and put us all at risk of further government abuse. But helping to push these important privacy protections through the legislative process would protect the public from the authoritarian aspirations of Donald Trump, and all those like him.
It’s time for Nancy Pelosi to live up to her own ideals. It’s time for Nancy Pelosi to save Internet privacy.