Another View -- Dan Innis: We need a Congressman who will oppose the surveillance state
I'm seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District to give voters a choice. I believe that the GOP should stand for limited, responsible government. And yet my opponent for the nomination has routinely supported unlimited, unaccountable government. The choice is clear.
Frank Guinta toed the party line in Congress, and I expect he’d do so again if we sent him back to Washington. He and Carol Shea-Porter keep passing each other through the revolving door, electing one in Republican years and the other in Democratic years. And each can be counted on to continue to support the Washington, D.C., status quo.
There are several issues currently before Congress that demand real reform. The unchecked growth of the federal government’s surveillance powers is one of them. And on this important issue Frank Guinta and I disagree.
The shocking revelations of the National Security Agency’s breathtakingly broad data collection operations have shown how far the federal government will stretch its authority when Congress is unwilling to rein it in.
Under the current regime, the NSA can not only collect the time, place, length and details of our phone calls, without any probable cause or court oversight, but it has obtained untold email and social networking communications from companies such as Facebook and Google. It has used “national security letters” to obtain confidential client information and gagged companies from even letting customers know that their data has been breached.
The original Patriot Act, and its follow-on bills, were designed to give the U.S. intelligence community better tools to track and stop foreign terrorists organizations. But these programs have been co-opted and abused to the point that they allow the federal government to avoid almost any limits on its ability to spy on American citizens.
You don’t even need to be connected to a foreign intelligence target to be subject to “backdoor surveillance.” If you call someone who emailed someone who knows a target, you are subject to surveillance under the “Three Hop” Rule. This could quite literally trap every American citizen in the NSA’s surveillance web. I simply reject the premise that such sweeping data collection authority enhances our national security. I don’t think we make it easier to find the needles by giving the NSA authority to search through a bigger haystack.
President Obama has allowed the NSA surveillance programs to continue even as he called on Congress to limit them. But his proposal does little to actually cut down on the NSA unchecked power. Court review would be delayed until after data have been collected, time limits on when unneeded data would be destroyed are left undefined, and the government could avoid going to a judge entirely simply by declaring an “emergency situation.” Limits on government that can be waived at the government’s discretion are no limits at all.
As New Hampshire’s next representative, I will work to help pass real reforms that protect both our nation and our Constitution. Meanwhile, my opponent’s record in Congress suggests that he will not.
In 2011, Frank Guinta voted to reauthorize several provisions of the Patriot Act, even as critics such as Sen. Rand Paul sought to offer amendments to curb warrantless wiretaps and unlimited searches of business records.
In January 2012, Guinta showed some promise, coming out against SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, which would have given the federal government sweeping new power over the Internet. The bill would have allowed federal regulators to shut down websites merely because big media companies alleged a copyright claim. This clear violation of due process would have limited our First Amendment rights and stifled competition.
Yet just three months later, Guinta flip-flopped on protecting the Internet from government regulation, voting for CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. This bill would also have allowed broad federal authority to regulate Internet traffic. It was opposed by a broad coalition of conservative and libertarian groups, including Americans for Limited Government, FreedomWorks, the American Conservative Union, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, as well as the ACLU.
If we really believe in limited government, we need to elect representatives willing to stand up even when broad government powers are popular. For Guinta, support for limited government is a “sometime thing.” I’m seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District because I believe support for limited government should be an “always thing.”
Dan Innis is a Republican candidate for Congress in New Hampshire 1st District, and the former Dean of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. He can be reached at www.InnisForCongress.com.