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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

Vote Notes: Three Week Continuing Resolution

Dec 22, 2017
Blog Post

There’s always a story behind the story…and such was the case on Thursday with debate that surrounded the continuing resolution intended to keep government up and open.

What was in play was in fact more than just keeping government open because tucked into the continuing resolution was, among other things, an 8-year reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This was a big deal because, depending on one’s perspective, lawmakers were either working to quietly reinstate the law’s program or, in my case, working with others to resist and stall so that we might see real changes or even the end to what has taken place under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

At the end, we were able to get a compromise. A number of conservatives would vote yes on the continuing resolution so that the government would stay open through January 19th in exchange for an open and separate debate and vote on our surveillance activities before the temporary reauthorization ends on January 19th.

If you care about limiting government, you should care about this issue. In fact, for the Fourth Amendment to mean anything, you cannot continue what our nation is doing in section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Individual liberty and personal privacy are two of the hallmarks of the American experiment, and current law compels American companies to assist in what would amount to warrantless surveillance. It was intended for foreigners, but once the information is in their database, they now routinely are able to look at Americans’ communications without a warrant.

This should be a sticking point for all of us because, again, the Fourth Amendment is absolutely crystal clear as it says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Intelligence services have not lived up to the Founding Fathers’ clearly described threshold of probable cause and the need for a warrant in looking through America’s personal communications.

As you may know, the idea behind the Fourth Amendment was based on the Founding Fathers’ frustration with British soldiers coming into a person’s house and looking long enough until they found something with which to charge American citizens. The Founding Fathers believed that none of us were perfect, and if one rooted around long enough, something could be found that would be, if not unlawful, then at least uncomfortable for most any of us when viewed by others or put into public light.

What’s been most interesting on this subject is how, once again, the Founding Fathers were right in their design of our system. They designed a system of checks and balances recognizing that governments are run by imperfect people. The latest revelations of actions by some in the FBI absolutely cements how right they were in putting in place these balancing measures.

In short, what was going on in the continuing resolution was indeed a big deal if you care about liberty and sustaining American Freedom. We were able to get our vote and stop what would have been an eight-year reauthorization of a program that deserves both review and change.

To get a better idea of my view of how Section 702 ought to change, I’d ask that you take a look at the USA Rights Act. Click Here, if you'd like to learn more.