Russ Feingold: Let’s dismantle the surveillance state | split


For example, Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act expanded the government’s ability to access personal records from third parties, including doctors, librarians, and Internet service providers. And while a judge must certify that the government meets the general criteria of the law, the government does not need to produce evidence to support its claim. Instead, the judiciary must trust the government at its word.

As a result, courts have too often been unobserved in the application of the PATRIOT Act and its replacement, the USA Freedom Act – rather than being significant actors actively involved in determining its scope and constitutionality.

An important step towards the dismantling of the surveillance state and the restoration of civil liberties in this country is the restoration of judicial supervision. Our judicial system exists not least to protect civil rights and freedoms and to control the power of the other two branches of government. We must restore the ability of our courts to restrain the surveillance state.

It was only a few years ago that the Supreme Court took an important step to rule the surveillance when, following a statement from Chief Justice John Roberts, Judges Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were ordered to court Carpenter v. United States that the government violated the Fourth Amendment by seizing cell phone records without a warrant.

While Carpenter has nothing to do with the PATRIOT Act or the USA Freedom Act, it was a landmark privacy decision. But their future, and that of other important privacy precedents, is now in the hands of a Supreme Court full of conservative judicial ideologues.

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