Virginia's own Rep. Robert Goodlatte, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, can take a bold and decisive step to protect Internet privacy, limit the brazen power of the federal government and enhance America's competitiveness abroad by acting on legislation known as the LEADs (Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad) Act. By passing this bill through his Committee, the powerful Chairman would repeal a broad overreach of federal power pushed for by Obama Administration's Justice Department.
When Eric Holder's DOJ sought information about an Irish citizen who stored information on the Internet using an Irish company, it served Microsoft a warrant. The Irish company is a subsidiary of the Seattle-based software giant and the feds are demanding that Microsoft breach the corporate veil to hand the material over to the federal government despite the lack clear lack of jurisdiction.
If the DOJ wanted a document or piece of paper rather than an electronic document, the DOJ would be forced by treaty obligations to abide by Irish law and request the Irish government serve the warrant. Instead, the Obama administration decided to bypass that step and grab the material without the consent of Dublin.
Microsoft has gone to court twice to try to protect the identity of their users, but thus far, courts have sided with the feds. Unless Congress acts or the Supreme Court takes the case, the DOJ will have improperly asserted control of most cloud computing systems all over the world.
Sen. Orrin Hatch introduced the LEADs bill to find a balance between the needs of law enforcement and the need to protect Internet privacy. The House version of the bill awaits action by the Judiciary Committee.
Without enactment, American companies working abroad are put at a major competitive disadvantage as foreign competitors. As Senator Hatch said, “This is a pro-business, pro-innovation bill that will protect American privacy in the digital age and promote trust in U.S. technologies worldwide. While I agree in principle with the ECPA reform bills recently introduced in the House and Senate, neither establishes a framework for how the U.S. government can access data stored abroad. As Congress works to reform our domestic privacy laws, we must modernize the legal framework for government access to digital data stored around the world. This bill recognizes that these two issues are inextricably linked.”
The House should act to reverse this power grab. Rep. Goodlatte should lead the way.
Gregory Honeycutt of the Roanoke Tea Party took to the pages of the Roanoke Times to defend states rights and oppose cronyism. His article is worth a read:
America’s Founding Fathers established a central government with powers limited to those specifically enumerated in the Constitution, leaving everything else to the states to decide for themselves. Yet some 238 years later, power is increasingly being concentrated in Washington, D.C. ,with the federal government becoming the ultimate authority on all things large and small.
This slide toward the extra-constitutional role of the federal government has been driven by the “never let a crisis go to waste” philosophy wherein hyperbolic coverage of the latest bad news is exploited, paving the way for new federal authorities. Perhaps even more onerous though, is the erosion of states’ sovereignty that has occurred at the hands of those seeking to advance their own agendas, a prime example of which is playing out in Congress over the issue of Internet gaming.
The regulation of gambling is not a federally enumerated power. States have always decided for themselves whether to allow it and held responsibility for enforcement of those laws. In the early days, Las Vegas became a gambling hub simply because Nevada allowed casinos when other states wouldn’t. Lately, more states have chosen to allow legal, regulated gambling with some also legalizing Internet gaming limited to residents of that state.
Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands casino corporation, apparently fears that competition from these states legalizing online gaming will hurt his Las Vegas casinos. He is asking Congress to pass a federal ban on all online gaming in America.
Despite being a clear violation of the 10th Amendment, the legislation has gained some supporters. Undoubtedly, some see support of this bill as a means to get on the good side of a man who donated more than $100 million to political candidates in 2012 alone. Others likely see it as a means to stop the expansion of an activity that they disdain.
Regardless of the motivation, passage of this legislation would create new federal powers, having long-lasting consequences.
Federal power is a two-way street, in that what the government can disallow, the government can also require. This has repeatedly been shown in everything from social issues to environmental policy. So, the creation of this authority could lead to states that don’t want gambling being forced by the federal government to allow it, along with a myriad of other activities from gun rights to social policies.
As bad as that sounds, the harm doesn’t stop there. The legislation would have far-reaching consequences for the Internet by creating a new federal authority to outlaw a specific form of Internet commerce. The potential for abuse of this new power is unlimited.
Fortunately, our hometown congressman has the power to protect states from yet another gross federal overreach. Though our differences with 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte are well documented, we applaud the fact that, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee through which this bill must pass, he has so far refused to hold a hearing on the bill.
As a student of the Constitution, he must understand that there is no legal basis for using government to protect a casino owner’s business interests or to impose one’s personal opinion on the states. In fact, the 10th Amendment and the Constitution itself are intended to prevent precisely those things.
Drifting away from these sacrosanct principles, as the proponents of the federal ban intend, would send America further away from freedom, liberty and equality before the law, and move us ever closer to a relativist nation guided by the whims and personal opinions of those in power. Goodlatte deserves our support for standing up for Virginia’s sovereignty and for the Constitution.