Press Releases

Smith and Polis Introduce Legislation to Protect Data Privacy & Civil Liberties

Washington D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced legislation in the House of Representatives today to ensure Americans are not forced to endure indiscriminate and suspicionless searches of their phones, laptops and other digital devices just to cross the border. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a similar bill in the Senate earlier this week. Under current law, Customs and Border Protection have extreme latitude to search anyone at the border of the United States. Agents have authority to delay your travel, detain you, and otherwise compel you to unlock your electronic device, social media accounts, and digital storage – all with no probable cause or other suspicion.

April 4, 2017

“A primary duty of the United States Government is to protect its citizens, but it is critical that in doing so we do not forget our obligation to protect the privacy and rights of Americans,” said Congressman Smith.  “This legislation will provide clear and commonsense legal avenues for the Department of Homeland Security to pursue those who commit crime and wish to do our country harm without infringing on the rights of American citizens.  Importantly, it will ensure that American citizens and legal residents returning to the U.S. from overseas are not subject to invasive, warrantless searches of their data. Your private information should remain just that – private.”

“The government should not have the right to access your personal electronic devices without probable cause,” Congressman Polis said. “Whether you are at home, walking down the street, or at the border, we must make it perfectly clear that our Fourth Amendment protections extend regardless of location. This bill is overdue, and I am glad we can come together in a bicameral, bipartisan manner to ensure that Customs and Border Patrol agents don’t continue to violate essential privacy safeguards.”

“The Supreme Court has made clear that generally law enforcement must get a warrant before searching an electronic device.  Yet, CBP continues to seize and search thousands of travelers’ devices every year without a warrant,” said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Congress must now take action to end this unwise and unconstitutional practice by enacting this important bill.”

"The Protecting Data at the Border Act is timely legislation that would rein in Customs and Border Protection. In recent months, we have seen an alarming increase in the number of invasive device searches at the border,” said EFF Staff Attorney Sophia Cope. “The extraordinary privacy interests in our cell phones and other mobile devices are not the same as those for a suitcase. EFF supports this important bill, which would require border agents to do what we believe the Constitution requires: get a probable cause warrant."

“A search of your cell phone or social media account is a direct look behind the curtain that covers the most intimate aspects of your life. A border stop shouldn’t be an excuse for extreme surveillance such as downloading the entire contents of your phone. This bill would ensure that the government demonstrates a good reason for searches at the border, and that a judge agrees,” said Greg Nojeim, CDT Director, Freedom, Security, and Technology Project.

Background:

The Protecting Data at the Border Act was introduced in response to recent countless stories of individuals being arbitrarily stopped at the border. These reports are both worrisome and threatening to the very principles of due process – a founding principle of our democratic system of government. Originally introduced by Congressman Smith as the “Traveler’s Privacy Protection Act,” this updated legislation reflects the changing digital landscape in which Americans are regularly engaged. 

  • The legislation will set strict standards on border searches for accessing not only electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops, but also to protecting the privacy of your data and information stored online.
  • This legislation would not in any way hamper the safety or security of travelers. It specifically allows for the screening of devices to ensure they are not otherwise dangerous (as is current standard practice when traveling inside the U.S.) The bill includes measures to ensure the privacy of your social media accounts, online presence data, and cloud storage.
  • This is not an exceptional standard – within the United States, these search protections exist under the 4th Amendment. The fact that we do not extend these constitutional protections to the border is something that, in this technological era, must be fixed immediately. 

The Protecting Data at the Border Act requires reasonable suspicion of illegal activity for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents to search the contents of laptop computers or other electronic devices carried by U.S. citizens or lawful residents, and it prohibits profiling travelers based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.  Additionally, the bill requires a warrant or court order to seize information uncovered during a search, and ensures that information acquired during an electronic search is protected by strict disclosure limitations. Reporting requirements also mandate that DHS provides information on its border search policies and practices to Congress and the public.

 

 

Bipartisan, Bicameral Washington Members Introduce Bill to Designate Mountains to Sound Greenway as National Heritage Area

Washington D.C. –Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced a bill to designate Washington state’s Mountains to Sound Greenway—1.5 million acres of land stretching along the Interstate 90 corridor from Seattle to Ellensburg—as a National Heritage Area to help preserve and promote its scenery, resources and history for future generations. U.S. Representatives Dave Reichert (R-Wash.-08) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.-09) have introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

March 30, 2017

The Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area Act would recognize a scenic byway and historic transportation corridor through 2,400 square miles that includes the Cascade peaks, wilderness lakes and forests, as well as a network of roads, rails and trails. It includes farms and forests, historic sites, lakes, campgrounds, rivers and wildlife habitat. The area is home to 1.4 million residents in 28 cities and 1,600 miles of trails.

The Mountains to Sound National Heritage Area could become the first such designation in the Pacific Northwest. Congress has designated 49 National Heritage Areas nationwide to promote local economic growth and tourism, and to preserve sites and landmarks with cultural and historical significance. 

“The recreation economy is one of the largest job creators. Protecting special places like the Mountains to Sound Greenway would help boost tourism to some of Washington state’s most scenic and historic landscapes,” Sen. Cantwell said. “I am proud to work with Sen. Murray, Reps. Reichert and Smith, and the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust to establish this National Heritage Area and build on nearly two decades of efforts to preserve our state’s natural landscape for future generations.” 

“No matter what the political climate, it’s so important we continue to push to preserve our most precious natural spaces – and I’m proud to continue this fight to protect the Mountains to Sound Greenway,” Sen. Murray said. “Outdoor recreation is a key part of Washington state’s economy, and this designation will draw even more tourists to appreciate our unique natural resources, and support local economic development from Ellensburg to Seattle and every community in between.”

“Washington’s natural beauty attracts visitors from across the country and globe who want to experience our mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests,” Rep. Reichert said. “Living with these natural treasures in our backyard has not only taught us the importance of conservation, but have shown us being stewards of the land can also grow our local economy. With an already strong outdoor recreation and tourism industry, protecting the Mountains to Sound Greenway promises to create more jobs in our region, while preserving these valuable sites and landmarks for future generations to enjoy. I have been proud to work with a bipartisan group of Washington colleagues in both the Senate and the House on this initiative that benefits constituents across district and party lines.”

“The Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area designation is critical to achieving a sustainable relationship between Washington state residents and nature in the Puget Sound Region,” Rep. Adam Smith said. “The diverse coalition of organizations, local Tribes, community members, as well as bicameral and bipartisan Congressional leaders supporting this effort, speaks to the value our community places on protecting our environment for generations to come.”

National Heritage Areas are Congressional-designated partnerships between the National Park Service, states and local communities through which the Park Service supports local and state efforts to preserve natural resources and promote tourism. National Heritage Areas are not part of the National Park System. No federal regulations are imposed, and no private land is affected or acquired.

Since 1991, the nonprofit Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust has worked to preserve the area’s scenic landscapes for recreation, education and conservation. More than 900,000 acres of land now are publicly-owned, including parks and forests such as Tiger Mountain, Snoqualmie Pass and Mount Si.

Heritage Area designations are eligible for federal grants and can help draw financial contributions from state, local and private sources. A recent economic impact study indicates National Heritage Areas contribute $12.9 billion annually to the national economy and support 148,000 jobs, according to the Park Service. On average, Heritage Areas generate about $263 million in economic activity and support about 3,000 jobs, primarily through tourism and visitor spending.

Other National Heritage Areas nationwide include: the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area in Springfield, Illinois; the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and the Baltimore National Heritage Area in Baltimore, Maryland.

Heritage Area designations also help coordinate marketing and tourism promotion, such as developing websites, putting up highway signs to advertise sites, sponsoring festivals, and publishing brochures and tour maps. Heritage Areas also can help with assisting in the operation of museums and visitor centers.

 

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Smith Statement on Attorney General Sessions’ Attack on Community Law Enforcement Priorities

Washington D.C. – Today, Congressman Adam Smith released the following statement in response to Attorney General Jeff Session’s announcement this week that the Trump Administration will be targeting so-called “sanctuary cities:”

March 29, 2017

 

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear that the Trump Administration does not respect local jurisdiction’s understanding of how best to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their residents. The Trump Administration has threatened to revoke or withhold critical public safety funds from communities in a clear act of misguided retribution.

“The grant funds Attorney General Sessions has threatened to ‘claw back’ from local jurisdictions support not only the ongoing efforts of agencies such as the Seattle Police Department to strengthen and diversity their ranks, but also the efforts of prosecutors to tackle horrific crimes such as labor and sex trafficking. Shutting the door on these initiatives simply because the Administration refuses to acknowledge established facts on immigration disrespects the men and women who work every day to keep us safe.

“Local leaders in the Puget Sound region understand that ensuring the safety of our communities and protecting the rights of recent immigrants are goals that flatly do not conflict. Washington state should stand by our values and fight to keep families together.” 

Smith Statement on Vote Against Resolution to Revoke Internet Privacy Rules

Washington D.C. – Today, Congressman Adam Smith released the following statement after voting against S.J. Res. 34. This resolution of disapproval rejected a Federal Communication Commission Privacy Rule that was enacted during the Obama Administration:

March 28, 2017

“Congress should not undermine consumer’s privacy. Today, House Republicans voted to undo important privacy protections for internet users. This partisan vote takes away Americans’ choice about whether to allow their personal online information to be used for advertising and marketing purposes.

“Your online information should remain yours unless you agree to share it; it should not be put up for sale without your consent.” 

Ranking Member Smith Reintroduces Legislation to End Harmful Effects of Sequestration

Washington D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Adam Smith, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, reintroduced the Relief from Sequestration Act, along with Reps. Conyers, Lujan Grisham, McGovern, DelBene and Jayapal. This legislation would end sequestration and the drastic, across-the-board cuts sequestration has inflicted on our economy.

March 28, 2017

For years, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) and its continued threat of sequestration have negatively impacted our economy, government, and harmed our nation.  The Relief from Sequestration Act of 2017 is designed to repeal the sequestration mechanism in its entirety.  This bill would end the threat of automatic, draconian cuts to important national priorities. 


It is apparent that the mechanism of sequestration is not effective or necessary to spur the creation of a comprehensive deficit reduction plan.  In fact, the author of the 1987 law that first employed the sequester as an enforcement mechanism never intended for the sequester to be triggered; rather that only the threat of it be used to spur action and compromise.  Clearly, it has failed in that regard. The Relief from Sequestration Act of 2017 would end years of harmful and unnecessary cuts to discretionary programs by eliminating the automatic across-the-board cuts that are triggered anytime a discretionary account goes beyond the BCA caps.

“This bill does not deny the fact that we need a comprehensive, long-term deficit reduction deal.  We absolutely do.  This bill recognizes that discretionary spending accounts, and the economy, should no longer be held hostage by the threat of sequestration while Congress debates the larger revenue and mandatory spending changes that are fundamentally necessary,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA). “We have a deficit problem that must be addressed, but we should not damage our economy and undermine national security in the process.”

“We need a federal budget that will create jobs for struggling people, and will support stable growth in the economy that raises wages, helps ease the burden of putting food on the table, and ensures our nation doesn’t fall further behind countries that are investing in their future,” Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said. “That is why I’m proud to join with my colleagues to put an end—once and for all—to the self-inflicted crises that the Sequester represents.”

“It’s time to end the practice of indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts, which are fiscally irresponsible and harmful to our country and the services we provide to American families, veterans and small-business owners,” said Rep. Lujan Grisham (D-NM). “Instead, we need to pass a budget that creates jobs and provides stability to New Mexico working families and businesses, while reducing the deficit in a balanced and responsible way.”

“Americans need Congress to make the strong investments in our economy that will keep it growing for years to come. Both Democrats and Republicans understand the need to work toward long-term deficit reduction, and a key part of that strategy is revenue generated by investing in creating good jobs and growing our economy,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said. “Our bill will address this by finally ending sequestration and the devastating cuts that have held back our economy for too long.”

“Working families need certainty and stability to plan and invest for the future. It’s time to stop budgeting from one manufactured crisis to the next, and work on bipartisan policies that will set the country on the right course through strategic investments in education, research, clean energy, job-training and infrastructure,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA). “That’s why I’m honored to join my colleagues in introducing legislation to stop the harmful and indiscriminate cuts from sequestration.”

“Sequestration is a kneejerk budgetary maneuver that has done little to reduce deficits and instead has done tremendous harm to the economy,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). “We need to make responsible investments without leaving American priorities hanging in the balance. Getting rid of sequestration allows us to focus on what really matters: serving the people.”

Background

Sequestration was originally manufactured to force Congress to make difficult decisions about deficit reduction.  Unfortunately, Congress failed to find a solution to reduce our deficit and the devastating mechanism of sequestration took effect.  Under sequestration, automatic and indiscriminate cuts were applied through fiscal year 2021, decimating discretionary spending.  The sequester forestalled the sound planning needed for meaningful investments in national security, the workforce, transportation infrastructure, education, health care, public safety, housing, innovation, small business development, and many other facets of enduring national strength.  These cuts have also had unacceptable and serious economic implications, hindering the recovery, and disrupting regular order in Congress. The solution must be to permanently end this misguided and ineffective policy.