Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) is in a high profile position as the Chairman of the Select Committee investigating Benghazi, but he has established himself as a key defender of American freedom in Congress. Elected to Congress in 2010 by challenging an incumbent Republican for being insufficiently conservative, Gowdy received the Defender of Economic Freedom award from the fiscally conservative group, the Club for Growth. Gowdy was ranked at 97 percent by the Club for Growth based on his voting record in Congress.
Recently, there have been many efforts in Congress to re-establish limited government and the checks and balances between our three co-equal branches of government as intended by our Constitution. One of those is the Article I Project, lead by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). Under this plan, the Congress will once again function as the first among three co-equal branches of government as the authors of our Constitution intended. One key area where Congress can assert Article I authority is privacy rights under the 4th Amendment.
Another of these efforts is the hearing being held next week before the House Judiciary Committee, called by its Chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who is a consistent advocate of the Tenth Amendment and limited government. The hearing is titled “International Conflicts of Law Concerning Cross Border Data Flow and Law Enforcement Requests.” A key issue that will be heard will be proposed reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which needs to be updated to account for many changes in technology that have taken place over the years to protect key privacy rights.
The Microsoft case, where the Justice Department has asserted authority to obtain data stored on a foreign-based cloud server without a warrant and without going through the process under the laws where the server is based, highlights the importance of privacy rights of business and individuals over electronic data. The Justice Dept. ignored the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with Ireland in asserting authority to obtain the data from a cloud server used by a subsidiary of Microsoft, in violation of their privacy rights.
A truly balanced approach to reforming the ECPA could be achieved by passing The Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS Act) that would allow needed law enforcement access to data via the warrant process while also protecting the privacy rights of businesses and individuals. Additionally, this will protect America’s competitive edge in the world economy by enabling and protecting the ability to innovate through the use of cloud servers and other computing technology.
With the reform of ECPA and protecting of privacy rights, Congress has a key role to play once again in protecting American’s rights. Rep. Trey Gowdy has established a strong record as a true defender of American Freedom in Congress. Next week presents a great opportunity to stand for key privacy rights of Americans during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on 4th Amendment issues involving electronic data.