Two House Representatives Say Transfer of Raw NSA Data to Domestic Agencies Would Be Unconstitutional

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In light of media reports that the National Security Agency data could be routinely used for domestic policing rather than just terrorism, Representatives Ted Lieu and Blake Farenthold have stated that, if pursued, such a policy would be “unconstitutional and dangerous.”

A letter to the head of NSA’s U.S. Cyber Command from Lieu and Farenthold (members of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee) provided a strong warning to the NSA that it could be violating the Fourth Amendment.

If domestic agencies could obtain direct access to raw information from the NSA’s surveillance, it would amount to unreasonable search and seizure, they said. Domestic law enforcement agencies require a warrant supported by probable cause to search or seize.

“If the NSA intends to go down this uncharted path, we request that you stop,” they wrote. “The proposed shift in the relationship between our intelligence agencies and the American people should not be done in secret.”

Read more: New FCC Privacy Rules Outline ISP Responsibilities Around Customer Data

They go on to argue that the NSA’s role is in foreign intelligence and counterintelligence, and “has never been, and should never be, for domestic policing or domestic spying.”

Moreover, Congress hasn’t granted extraordinary warrantless surveillance and collection powers to domestic law enforcement agencies, and the President doesn’t have the authority to allow the NSA to transfer data collected without warrants to domestic agencies (as part of the Separation of Powers).

Earlier this year, Lieu and Farenthold (along with Representatives Suzan DelBene and Mike Bishop) introduced legislation to preempt state and local governments from creating their own laws to ban encryption. In the broader picture, this was also aimed at stopping unconstitutional search and seizure of products and services through the removal of encryption.

Even with the threat of encryption keeping criminal activity underground, many are concerned how the Fourth Amendment should apply to the digital world.


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