On Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson sent a letter to the heads of key agencies demanding answers to questions about their use of data brokers.
It is no secret that agencies ranging from the FBI to the DEA have been circumventing the Fourth Amendment by purchasing the data of millions of Americans from private data brokers. This letter is the latest sign Congress is waking up to the privacy and surveillance threat posed by data brokers contracting with the federal government.
Reps. Nadler and Thompson wrote Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, as well as the heads of Customs and Border Protection, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The two chairmen noted:
“In a recent hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, a witness stated that materials provided by data brokers ‘turn policing from a suspect-focused search into a constant, intrusive surveillance system that surveils all of us. Rather than focusing on particular suspects, data policing tools are dragnets, sifting through all of our data.’”
The letter demanded each agency provide four sets of documents:
This is a step in the right direction, and PPSA looks forward to further work by Congress on the subject. What we learn from these requests should prompt Congress to pass the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act.