WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Lawmakers from both parties say the Department of Justice, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has abused their secret subpoena power to spy on Americans, bypassing critical steps of due process.
The reason, Democrats and Republicans say, is because regulations have not kept up with technology.
“Twenty-first century federal prosecutors no longer need to show up to your office, just need to raid your virtual office,” New York Democrat Jerry Nadler said. “They do not have to subpoena journalists directly, just need to go to the cloud.”
The Justice Department frequently acquires email, phone record and other communications data directly from service providers, say lawmakers. Recent reporting revealed the DOJ secretly obtained communications records of members of Congress, their staff and journalists and issued gag orders to make sure those individuals didn’t find out what was happening.
There are also concerns this is happening to average Americans.
“Up to a third of all legal demands we receive from federal law enforcement include secrecy orders,” said Tom Burt of Microsoft. “Up to 3500 in just one year. And these are just the demands on Microsoft.”
Media organizations say Congress needs to provide new subpoena laws and not allow the DOJ to police itself.
“The single most important step and one that is steeped in our shared American values, is to recognize the importance of due process and procedural safeguards,” said Eve Burton with the Hearst Corporation.
Republicans like Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan said they’re hopeful they can work with Democrats to update the laws.
“In the US, the government should not spy on its citizens, plain and simple,” Jordan said. “Very high burdern for government to do so.”