In the wake of the scandal over the DOJ’s seizure of the phone records of reporters from the Associated Press, a bipartisan group of legislators has submitted a bill to require that any such seizures can only be done pursuant to a warrant issued by a judge.
Currently, the Telephone Records Act allows the feds to demand phone records from service providers by using only an administrative subpoena to obtain basic subscriber information. Basic subscriber information can include a customer’s name, address, credit card number, and phone records.
The Telephone Records Protection Act consists of just one sentence amending that law (.pdf) and would force federal agencies to seek judicial review to obtain records in order to avoid a situation like the one that recently happened with the Associated Press.
The bill would protect the phone records of all Americans, not just journalists, and would require federal agencies to state “specific and articulable facts” to prove to a court that the records and information being sought is “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”…
The bill was introduced Thursday by representatives Justin Amash (R-Michigan), Zoe Lofgren (D-California), Mick Mulvaney (R-South Carolina), and Jared Polis (D-Colorado).
What are the chances that this law passes? Slim and none. And slim just left. There’s not a chance in hell. Because the leadership of both parties will prevent it from even getting a committee hearing, much less a floor vote, just as they’ve done with every other bill that would have restored some sort of meaningful checks and balances to the executive branch’s power to spy on American citizens. And just like they have pushed through the Patriot Act and several reauthorizations, the FISA Amendments Act and several other bills that undermine the 4th Amendment.
The American National Security State, complete with wholesale data mining, severe punishment for whistleblowers, intimidation of journalists who ask too many questions and a whole range of legal technicalities to prevent anyone whose rights have been violated from ever getting their day in court, is now a matter of bipartisan consensus. The Republican leadership in the House (Boehner and Cantor) and the Democratic leadership in the Senate (Reid, Schumer, and Feinstein) will make sure that the token opposition that will arise in both chambers (from Amash, Polis and maybe Rush Holt in the House; Rand Paul and maybe Ron Wyden in the Senate) is marginalized and ignored and any such bills get bottled up in committee.