No More Fourth Amendment! Congress Blocks Bill to Shield Americans from Warrantless Spying!

Written by James Sullivan.

Congress has turned down a pivotal bill that would mandate federal authorities to secure a warrant before accessing Americans’ private data.

HR 4639, known as “The Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act” (FANSA), aimed to extend Fourth Amendment protections to include data acquired commercially, ensuring that the government could not buy private data without a judicial warrant.

The House voted against the bill 176–246, reflecting significant contention despite the bill’s bipartisan support. This decision marked a crucial moment in the ongoing debate over the renewal of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which currently allows for the surveillance of Americans under certain conditions without a warrant.

Legislative Debate Heats Up

Wyoming Republican Representative Harriet Hageman vocally supported the bill, criticizing federal agencies’ practices of bypassing traditional legal processes to gather data.

“This bill would have curbed the federal government’s overreach and safeguarded Americans’ privacy rights,” Hageman asserted on the House floor. She highlighted the ease with which federal agencies could purchase vast amounts of data from brokers, bypassing the need for a warrant.

Democrat Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the unanimous committee support for moving the bill to the floor. “The unanimous vote in committee showcased the broad agreement on the need for stringent Fourth Amendment protections,” Nadler remarked.

Opposition from the Biden Administration

The Biden administration, along with top intelligence officials, opposed FANSA, arguing that restricting access to commercially available data could hinder efforts to combat terrorism. This stance has been a sticking point, with critics arguing it undermines fundamental privacy rights.

The Broader Implications

The debate occurs amid revelations from Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who disclosed communications with the Department of Defense. These revealed that agencies like the NSA were purchasing Americans’ personal information from data brokers without warrants, often from sources that obtained the data illegally.

Our Take

The rejection of HR 4639 represents a significant setback for privacy advocates and highlights a troubling willingness within Congress to prioritize unchecked surveillance capabilities over constitutional protections. This decision not only affects the privacy rights of every American but also sets a concerning precedent for the future of digital rights and governmental oversight. It is imperative that we demand higher standards of transparency and accountability from our leaders, ensuring that our constitutional rights are not traded away under the guise of national security.

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