A Democrat congressman defends the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution against the surveillance state
I confess, I began reading the Congressman’s statement before I knew who he was. Suddenly I panicked and thought to myself, “Oh, I hope this guy is a Republican.”
Nope. Though between Justin Amash and Rand Paul and Mike Lee and others we have a few good guys in the House and Senate.
But this time I’m forced to speak well of a Democrat.
His name is Tim Lieu, and to make matters worse, he comes to us via Kalifornia. He is one of four Representatives who has a computer science degree. He is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves and he served four years in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
If it helps, this letter is a slap across the face of Eric Holder.
As Ars Technica reports, Lieu made his statement in response testimony before the Congressional subcommittee on Information Technology. Daniel Conley, the district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, argued that tech companies should not be permitted to offer encrypted security to customers.
In America, we often say that none of us is above the law. But when unaccountable corporate interests place crucial evidence beyond the legitimate reach of our courts, they are in fact placing those who rape, defraud, assault and even kill in a position of profound advantage over victims and society.
You notice that Conley is speaking a bunch of Leftist anti-capitalist clichés. I’m surprised he didn’t mention that “corporations aren’t people” and thus have no standing to invoke the Fourth Amendment.
None of those anti-corporate clichés moved Lieu. He said he found “Conley’s testimony “offensive.”
Then he said:
It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. Why do you think Apple and Google are doing this? It’s because the public is demanding it. People like me: privacy advocates. A public does not want an out-of-control surveillance state. It is the public that is asking for this. Apple and Google didn’t do this because they thought they would make less money. This is a private sector response to government overreach.
Then you make another statement that somehow these companies are not credible because they collect private data. Here’s the difference: Apple and Google don’t have coercive power. District attorneys do, the FBI does, the NSA does, and to me it’s very simple to draw a privacy balance when it comes to law enforcement and privacy: just follow the damn Constitution.
And because the NSA didn’t do that and other law enforcement agencies didn’t do that, you’re seeing a vast public reaction to this. Because the NSA, your colleagues, have essentially violated the Fourth Amendment rights of every American citizen for years by seizing all of our phone records, by collecting our Internet traffic, that is now spilling over to other aspects of law enforcement. And if you want to get this fixed, I suggest you write to NSA: the FBI should tell the NSA, stop violating our rights. And then maybe you might have much more of the public on the side of supporting what law enforcement is asking for.
Then let me just conclude by saying I do agree with law enforcement that we live in a dangerous world. And that’s why our founders put in the Constitution of the United States—that’s why they put in the Fourth Amendment. Because they understand that an Orwellian overreaching federal government is one of the most dangerous things that this world can have. I yield back.
I’m blown away by this statement, not only because it is a great defense of the Constitution, but it also trashes the Leftist portrayal of corporations as enemies of the public. This can happen when corporations get access to government power, but normally corporations are simply servants of the customer. That is exactly what Lieu describes here.
He also called the demand for access through encryption “technologically stupid.” Ars Technica asked him for clarification and he wrote to them:
Backdoors create unnecessary vulnerability to otherwise secure systems that can be exploited by bad actors. Backdoors are also problematic because once one government asks for special treatment, then other governments with fewer civil liberties protections will start asking for special treatment. In addition, computer code is neutral and unthinking. It cannot tell if the person typing on a keyboard trying to access private data is the FBI Director, a hacker, or the leader of Hamas as long as that person has the cryptographic key or other unlocking code. The view that computer backdoors can only be used by “good guys” reflects a lack of understanding of basic computer technology.
This stupidity is one reason that the NSA finds that knowledgeable computer people don’t want to work for them.
I don’t know Lieu’s record and I am not endorsing any other thing about him. But the statements quoted above are outstanding! That Democrats get to say stuff like this while we have to put up with people like Lindsey Graham is so frustrating!
Every Republican should sound like this every single day of the week!