U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan receives high marks on privacy rights

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An alliance of privacy groups gave U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan high marks this week for his push to reform the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs and protect constitutional rights of American citizens.

Twenty-one civil liberty groups – including the Sunlight Foundation, Reddit and Freedom of the Press Foundation – gave the Sarasota Republican an ‘A’ grade on its inaugural “Stand Against Spying” Congressional Scorecard.

 “We believe that people have a right to know whether their members of Congress are doing their jobs and helping to end mass spying,” according to the Stand Against Spying website.  “Our scorecard shines a light on all members of Congress, allowing citizens of the Internet to see whether their elected representatives stand as champions or roadblocks to real surveillance reform.”

The coalition recognized Buchanan for his votes in Congress to end the NSA’s collection of personal information of Americans. Singled out was Buchanan’s support in May for an amendment in the 2015 Defense Appropriations bill to block the NSA from conducting warrantless searches of communications records.  The measure passed the House 293-123, going to the Senate for consideration.

Buchanan, a member of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, also co-sponsored the original USA Freedom Act, sponsored by Republican U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, which add oversight and transparency to government surveillance programs without weakening national security.

“I believe that our strength as a nation flows from the values and freedoms set forth by our founding fathers, including the right against unreasonable searches and seizures,” said Buchanan. “It’s imperative that both parties work together and institute reforms to protect the privacy and liberties of the American people.”

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled last week that police must obtain a warrant to search a suspect’s cell phone – an extensive endorsement for privacy rights.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.