URGENT: Members of Congress are seeking to enact a bill that — despite ostensibly being just a “TikTok ban” — would give new, tyrannical powers to the federal government.
S. 686, titled the “RESTRICT Act,” is sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) and is cosponsored by 25 other senators, both Republicans and Democrats.
For example, S. 686 does not just affect TikTok — it would allow the federal government to designate any country as a “foreign adversary,” without any congressional oversight, and then restrict access to any online services associated in some way with that country.
Worse, the bill would impose severe penalties on American citizens who seek any type of “transaction” — which is very broadly defined — with those services. The bill allows the government to “enforce[e] any mitigation measure to address any risk” and any “current, past, or potential future transaction” — so Americans could be targeted if they simply plan on accessing the restricted sites — and there are no provisions requiring due process. Penalties on Americans include a $250,000 civil fine, a $1 million criminal fine, and a jail sentence of up to 20 years.
Furthermore, if the U.S. Secretary of Commerce designates an entity as posing “undue or unacceptable risk” to U.S. national security, the federal government would be authorized to seize and access practically all information, including devices held by Americans, without a warrant.
Finally, among other actions, S. 686 declares that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) does not apply to any information related to the act’s enforcement.
The RESTRICT Act (S. 686) is a trojan horse — it is ostensibly intended to combat mainland China, but it will make our country and government more like Communist China. The political establishment is using valid concerns about China’s threat to the United States as an excuse to quietly expand the surveillance state. In fact, this bill would be the largest expansion of the surveillance state since the PATRIOT Act.
Furthermore, S. 686 could potentially put millions of Americans at risk of prosecution simply for what today are mundane activities, such as using a VPN.
Ultimately, S. 686 is unconstitutional. The U.S. Constitution does not give the federal government any authority to regulate services or perform searches without a warrant. Instead of further empowering the security state at the expense of our liberties, Congress should return to the Constitution and enact legislation that upholds it.
Don’t let Congress restrict our individual liberty. Contact your U.S. representative and senators, and urge them to oppose S. 686, the RESTRICT Act.
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