In the continued frenzy that followed the attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress amended section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 2008 by allowing U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies to monitor private communications of American citizens with foreigners without first obtaining a judicial warrant. That amendment expires at the end of 2023, and it must be allowed to expire! According to research by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in 2021 this statute was used by the FBI to conduct more than 3 million warrantless searches of communications between an American and a foreign national! Similarly, according to Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), section 702 allowed the FBI improperly to search the 702 database a full 204,000 times! This is not who we are as a country, and certainly would cause our Founding Fathers to rebel against us. If there is probable cause, go to a judge but, if not, stop these invasions of privacy!

I actually believe that I experienced one of those searches. About ten years ago I went back to Washington D.C. to be interviewed by C-SPAN’S Book TV about my book on drug policy. So, since I had some extra time, I asked a drug policy reform friend of mine if he could set up an event for me to discuss drug policy while I was there, which he did. Before the event began I had a conversation with a member of the Russian embassy, and even offered to go to Russia to help them repeal their failed drug prohibition policies if he felt that would be beneficial. Thereafter we communicated a few times by email message. Then about two months later I received a phone call from an FBI agent asking if they could interview me about these communications. I agreed, so at the appointed time two FBI agents came to our house, with one asking me questions and the other taking notes. I told them what I just told you but agreed, at their request, that if I had any further plans or conversations to let them know. But I also told them that I would not change my offer to help them change their policies. Nothing ever came of this, but I did wonder how the FBI learned of those communications. Did they have a warrant? I will never know, but probably they relied upon FISA 702 to intercept our communications. Now I will be first in line in wanting federal agents to investigate any possible threats to our national security, but no searches unless they can convince a neutral federal judge that they have probably cause. So if my contact was a known and dangerous Russian agent, I expect the agents could have procured a warrant. But does anyone truly believe that the FBI didn’t abuse our Fourth Amendment right to prohibit warrantless searches during (most of) the 3 million searches it conducted in 2021? This must not be allowed to continue!

Quote for the week: In the military, “rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.” Peter Drucker (And that should be true at all levels of society.)

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) Superior Court of Orange County, California 2012 Libertarian Candidate for Vice President

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