Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Today is the LAST DAY of this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

TODAY is the last day to meet our goal -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) departs the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Adam Schiff Ripped as 'Biggest Hypocrite in Congress' for Undermining Effort to Curb FBI Spy Powers

"He constantly talks about how the Trump administration is dangerous and authoritarian. But time and time again he has done everything in his power to ensure that the Trump administration has essentially limitless domestic surveillance authority."

Jake Johnson

Internet privacy group Fight for the Future said Wednesday that House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff—who has called President Donald Trump a "clear and present danger" to democracy—"may be the biggest hypocrite in Congress" after the California Democrat threw a wrench into efforts to curb the Justice Department's powers to surveil U.S. web browsing records without a warrant.

Over the weekend, Schiff and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) hammered out a deal on a compromise privacy amendment to the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020, a Senate-passed bill that would renew major elements of the FBI's surveillance authority. The amendment was originally welcomed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a leading privacy advocate in Congress, as a solid safeguard against warrantless internet spying.

"House Democrats had an opportunity to enact meaningful protections that would have kept people safe. Instead they let Rep. Adam Schiff throw it all away at the last minute."
—Evan Greer, Fight for the Future
But Schiff on Tuesday instead advanced a narrower interpretation of the amendment in a statement to the New York Times just hours before the surveillance reauthorization bill was expected to hit the House floor for a vote.

Schiff's interpretation of the measure, according to the Times, "left open the possibility of interpreting the potential new law as banning only deliberate attempts to collect an American's data, leaving the FBI free to ask for lists of all visitors to websites despite the risk that the list may turn out to incidentally include some Americans."

The California Democrat's comments led Wyden to withdraw his support for the amendment and caused an uproar among privacy advocates, many of whom are publicly urging lawmakers to oppose the amendment and the surveillance bill as a whole.

"House Democrats had an opportunity to enact meaningful protections that would have kept people safe," Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. "Instead they let Rep. Adam Schiff throw it all away at the last minute."

"Frankly, Schiff may be the biggest hypocrite in Congress," Greer added. "He constantly talks about how the Trump administration is dangerous and authoritarian. And he's right. But time and time again he has done everything in his power to ensure that the Trump administration has essentially limitless domestic surveillance authority that can be weaponized to target immigrants, activists, journalists, and religious minorities."

Fight for the Future urged the House to vote down the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act and "let the Patriot Act's domestic surveillance programs die permanently."

Progressive advocacy group Demand Progress is also urging the House to vote against the legislation unless it includes an amendment by Wyden and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) that would bar the FBI from surveilling internet browsing records without a warrant.

Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress, slammed Schiff on Twitter for inserting "Trojan horse language into an amendment to make it look like it makes the FBI get a warrant before obtaining your internet search history, but in reality imposes no such limit."

"Schiff is, unsurprisingly, the bad guy here. He forced an amendment to allow the targeting of immigrants and dreamers," tweeted Schuman, pointing out that the amendment would only protect American citizens from warrantless spying.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the surveillance bill is reportedly "on life support" in the House amid growing bipartisan opposition.

President Donald Trump, the Justice Department, and some House Republicans are also opposed to the bill—though for entirely different reasons than progressive privacy advocates. In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said Attorney General William Barr would recommend that Trump veto the legislation because of its limitations on the FBI's domestic surveillance powers.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said Wednesday that the Congressional Progressive Caucus is also urging its members to vote no on the bill.

"Thank you to Mark Pocan and Rep. Pramila Jayapal for standing up for our rights and freedoms," tweeted Evan Weber, political director of the Sunrise Movement.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

TODAY is the last day of our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Texas Supreme Court Allows Century-Old Abortion Ban to Take Effect

"Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences."

Jake Johnson ·


'What's There to Even Discuss?' Omar Says Free, Universal School Meals Should Be Permanent

"We have an opportunity to prove that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people can still deliver big things. And we can feed tens of millions of hungry kids while we do it."

Jake Johnson ·


'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·


As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo