After 9/11, the United States government preyed on the fear felt by many Americans to justify the passage of the USA Patriot Act—a law that was supposed to prevent future terrorist attacks. Now, after the Las Vegas shooting, the government has another proposed law ready to go, and just as with the Patriot Act, it also infringes on Americans’ liberties, and does very little for their security.
The USA Liberty Act is the latest trendy name for a law that would reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2017. According to the House Judiciary Committee, the act would preserve “the core purpose of Section 702: the collection of electronic communications by non-U.S. persons for use in our nation’s defense.”
However, it should be noted that while the purpose of FISA was reportedly only to allow surveillance on the communications of foreign targets who were suspected terrorists, it has been used to spy on the communications of innocent Americans—despite the practice being ruled illegal—and any reauthorization of the law will only allow the practice to continue under the guise of “preventing terrorism.”
The USA Liberty Act claims that it will “better protect Americans’ privacy” by requiring the government to have “a legitimate national security purpose” before searching an individual’s database. Then when they do have that purpose established, they will be required to “obtain a court order based on probable cause to look at the content of communications, except when lives or safety are threatened, or a previous probable cause-based court order or warrant has been granted.”