Libertarians to Congress: Stop government spying on presidential campaigns — and the rest of Americans

Libertarians advocate individual privacy and government transparency. We are committed to ending government’s practice of spying on everyone. We support the rights recognized by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, property, and communications. Protection from unreasonable search and seizure should include records held by third parties, such as email, medical, and library records.

It turns out that President Donald Trump’s allegations of campaign-season “wiretapping” by the Barack Obama administration in 2016 are true.

Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS News investigative journalist, now host of Sinclair Television’s Full Measure, wrote in an op-ed for The Hill on Thursday that the FBI indeed wiretapped Trump’s then–campaign head, Paul Manafort, and that Carter Page, Michael Flynn, and at least four others were among the Trump advisors who were also surveilled — as well as every person with whom they communicated. Journalists at Fox News and the Associated Press have also been subject to surveillance.

This is not surprising, and, according to Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark, it is not unique to Obama or to Democrats.

“George W. Bush spied on former Congresswoman Jane Harmon,” Sarwark said. “Among the Bill Clinton administration’s scandals was Filegate, in which Craig Livingstone, director of the White House Office of Personnel Security, improperly ordered hundreds of FBI background reports, allegedly to be reviewed for political purposes. Ronald Reagan issued an order authorizing the CIA to, for the first time, conduct covert operations domestically. And who can forget Richard Nixon’s enemies list from the Watergate investigation?”

Sarwark continued, “Politicians are going to be tempted to use any negative information on their opponents that they can get their hands on. That’s what opposition research entails. The 17 intelligence agencies in the United States (that we know about) should not be performing research for politicians. It was Joseph Stalin’s chief of the Soviet secret police (NKVD), Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, who infamously said, ‘Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime.’ That was scary even before the advent of modern electronic surveillance methods. Today, it is terrifying.”

There is one piece of good news in the face of overweening government’s illicit gathering of intelligence, regarding devices called StingRays that operate by mimicking cell towers in order to capture the location of a cell phone user. The Washington, D.C., court of appeals ruled last week that the use of these cell-site simulators without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment right not to be unreasonably searched.

Congress can join the court in rolling back the intelligence-industrial complex. Sarwark suggested that the first step is simple: choose not to renew the temporary amendments to the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which were passed in 2008 and are set to expire at the end of 2017.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats want that law to be permanently reauthorized, but Congress should let it expire,” Sarwark insisted. “Warrantless electronic surveillance on the say-so of just two people — the attorney general and the national security director — blatantly contradicts the American value of civil liberties.”