- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lawmakers in the House said Wednesday that a bipartisan caucus has been established to address privacy concerns as Congress weighs giving authorities greater access to Americans’ digital communications.

The newly created House Fourth Amendment Caucus will fight to ensure the Constitution’s protection against warrantless searches and seizures is considered as lawmakers weigh their counterterrorism options in light of continuously evolving technology.

U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, and Ted Poe, Texas Republican, will co-chair the caucus, and have already enlisted 23 other members of Congress from either side of the aisle — 13 Republicans and a dozen Democrats.

“From shutting the backdoor on warrantless spying to leading efforts to protect privacy, this Fourth Amendment Caucus gives members a new, nonpartisan forum for ideas, organization and strategy as we fight to protect the Constitution and the American people,” Ms. Lofgren said in a statement.

“As technology continues to evolve and improve, Congress must ensure that the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens are protected,” Mr. Poe added. “Technology may change, but the Constitution does not.”

Privacy concerns have been raised more frequently in Congress since 2013 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed details about the government’s vast surveillance operations. Rep. Justin Amash, Michigan Republican and founding caucus member, fell only a dozen votes shy of successfully leading an effort to defund the NSA in the wake of those revelations.

More recently, the topic was revisited amid the heated debate between privacy and security that intensified earlier this year when the FBI was unable to acquire contents from an iPhone belonging to mass shooter Syed Farook, and asked a federal court to compel Apple to defeat its own security mechanisms in order to unlock the device.

“Our founding fathers crafted the Fourth Amendment to withstand the test of time and protect our fundamental right to privacy, but they never could have anticipated today’s world of smartphones and connected cars,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat and caucus member.

“With rapidly changing technology and evolving security threats come constant pressures to shift the line between our privacy and acceptable government access to our information. It is time that that Congress had a formal, bipartisan group to share ideas and strategize how to keep that line in check. I am honored to stand with my colleagues today to launch the Fourth Amendment Caucus to keep privacy concerns at the forefront of our debates,” he said.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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