An unusual coalition of 13 Republicans and 12 Democrats on Wednesday announced the creation of the House Fourth Amendment Caucus to protect Americans’ privacy rights against calls for increased government surveillance in the wake of terrorist attacks.
The group named itself after the Fourth Amendment because the lawmakers fear that the government is increasingly seeking the power to search Americans’ electronic data without a warrant. They see that as a threat to the Constitutional amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
“In the face of difficult circumstances, some are quick to pursue extreme, unconstitutional measures; the Fourth Amendment Caucus will be a moderating influence that gives voice to countless Americans whose rights are violated by these ill-conceived policies,” said Rep.Justin Amash, R-Mich., who joined the group led by Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Ted Poe, R-Texas.
Privacy rights are one of the rare issues that liberals and libertarian-leaning conservatives in Congress have agreed on. Members of the new coalition oppose legislation that would force U.S. tech companies to build “backdoors” into encrypted smartphones or allow federal agents to view someone’s Internet browsing history without a warrant.
“Members of the House of Representatives from both parties are eager to debate and vote on privacy and surveillance issues that are far too often drafted in secret and jammed through the legislative process under tight deadlines, restrictive procedures, and little debate,” Lofgren said.