By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE – Angry about domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, former New Mexico governor and 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has launched an online drive centered on the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure.
“My blood’s boiling and I want to keep awareness of this at a heightened level,” Johnson told New Mexico Watchdog in a telephone interview. “Maybe we can get more disclosures out of this, maybe we’ll get Congress demanding more.”
Since receiving the most-ever votes for a Libertarian Party presidential candidate in November — 1.3 million, but still less than 1 percent of the popular vote — Johnson has been acting as the honorary chairman of the Our America Initiative, a nonprofit whose goals, according to its website, are to “restore liberty, personal responsibility and economic freedom.”
Johnson said his group sent an estimated 400,000 emails across the country highlighting what’s called his “Stand Up 4 The 4th” drive to pressure members of Congress, on vacation for three more weeks. ”Get NSA under control and restore our basic rights,” the email says.
“I’m just trying to raise awareness of this issue,” Johnson said. “Where’s the due process, right now, today, in all of what’s happening? This is what our lawmakers should ensure.”
Thursday, the Washington Post reported an NSA audit revealed 2,776 instances of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications in the space of one year.
Earlier this year, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a U.S. Senate committee the NSA was not collecting data on millions of Americans but later had to apologize, saying “My response was clearly erroneous.”
The ongoing saga of former CIA and NSA computer specialist Edward Snowden and the trial of Bradley Manning have kept the debate of intelligence gathering versus national security at the forefront of a national discussion.
“What we’re really concerned with is the Fourth Amendment and due process,” Johnson said. “Where is the due process? Who is looking over law enforcement’s shoulder? Who is looking over the NSA’s shoulder? … This is the libertarian cause right here. Libertarians have been out there sounding the warning bell about this issue ever the Patriot Act was signed.”
But President Obama has insisted, “There is no spying on Americans” — even though in recent months it’s been learned the Department of Justice seized “thousands and thousands” of phone records from the Associated Press and used security badge access records to track Fox News reporter James Rosen.
Former NSA director Michael Hayden said of critics, “They don’t want a little more transparency with regard to the metadata program. They want the program stopped.”
Defenders point to the legal basis for the metadata program and content collection from the Internet and telephone records seeking foreign intelligence and potential terrorist information must be approved first by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.
“We have this FISA Court but from all I understand, they seem like a rubber stamp,” Johnson said.
And little more than a week ago, Rep. Peter King, R-New York, defended the NSA, saying, “This is a legitimate role of government, and when we’re talking about life and death, and having lived in New York through 9/11 I know what life and death means. We cannot afford to have this become a debating society. We need decisions made quickly, yes or no, up or down, because lives are at stake.”
“We are forgoing what this country is founded on, which is really about civil liberties” Johnson countered, adding, “So in the name of safety and security and taking on the terrorists, we are spending ourselves into oblivion and we are not any safer.”
Contact Rob Nikolewski at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski