GOP Rep: Spying Threatens “˜Core of a Republic’

The U.S. is in a fight of “epic proportions” over digital privacy, according an Arizona congressman.

A sign stands outside the National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md., Thursday, June 6, 2013.
National Journal
Laura Ryan
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Laura Ryan
Feb. 10, 2014, 7:48 a.m.

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.

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