The "out-of-control surveillance state" threatens the very core of the Constitution, according to Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona.
"Transparency and privacy are the core of a republic. A republic demands transparency from the government and privacy for its citizens," Salmon said Monday at the Heritage Foundation's Conservative Policy Summit. "Today we've reversed that, with government demanding transparency from us but insisting on secrecy for itself."
Salmon galvanized the Republican base around the Fourth Amendment—which protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizure—at a daylong policy summit hosted by the conservative think tank. He said the government's mass snooping program crosses the line and does not make Americans safer.
"The fact is, as usual, when you give the government an inch, they take a mile," Salmon said.
The Arizona representative—who retired in 2001 after a self-imposed term limit but successfully ran again in 2012—pushed electronic communications privacy reform as one small step toward restraining government surveillance.
Salmon in 2013 introduced bipartisan legislation to amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 in response to the Internal Revenue Service's position that the Fourth Amendment does not protect emails. His bill would require the government to obtain a warrant or explicit written consent to access any private email or text message.
Introduced before Edward Snowden's revelations about the reach of the government spying program, Salmon said the bill's narrow focus increases its chance of becoming law. "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good," he said.
Digital privacy was one of 10 policy priorities for 2014 outlined at the conference. Other priorities include welfare reform, health care, education, and taxes.