Sending Office: Honorable Justin Amash
House Liberty Caucus statement on H.R. 6729, Empowering Financial Institutions to Fight Human Trafficking Act of 2018
September 25, 2018
The House Liberty Caucus urges opposition to
H.R. 6729, Empowering Financial Institutions to Fight Human Trafficking Act of 2018, which takes language from the Patriot Act to authorize more warrantless collection and sharing of Americans’ data, aggressively preempts state laws, and invites due process
Relying on Section 314 of the Patriot Act, the Department of the Treasury has decided that it can, without a warrant or other legal process, force tens of thousands of companies to search their records on law enforcement’s behalf and hand over information
on their customers’ accounts and transactions. The law is currently limited to terrorism and money laundering investigations, but the Treasury has sought unsuccessfully to amend the law to include other crimes.
H.R. 6729 copies language from Section 314 and applies it to whole new categories of information, broadening the range of customers’ personal information that the government may unilaterally demand without probable cause or a warrant. This expansion further
erodes Americans’ Fourth Amendment-secured right against warrantless searches, and it continues the government’s troubling practice of ignoring the Fourth Amendment’s particularity requirement and instead forcing companies to query billions of Americans’ records,
the vast majority of which belong to completely innocent people.
Like Section 314, H.R. 6729 also provides legal immunity for those who participate in the Treasury’s data-sharing programs, including nonprofits, law enforcement, and financial institutions (which, in addition to traditional financial institutions, can include
a broad range of other entities, such as travel agencies, jewelers, car dealers, and other companies designated by the Treasury). Even when the company and its customer are within the same state, H.R. 6729 preempts the applicable state laws—overturning the
state’s discretion in writing and enforcing their privacy and defamation laws—and it allows companies to share customer information with each other, even if their consumer agreements include privacy provisions that preclude such sharing.
This immunity also risks due process violations by preventing legal recourse against nonprofits that share accusations of wrongdoing with financial institutions, regardless of the accuracy or consequences of the disclosure. Even when someone is innocent,
the consequences of these disclosures may be severe: Because banks can face significant liability under federal law if they maintain accounts associated with criminal activity, banks often choose to close customer accounts when there is any suspicion of illegality.
If a nonprofit shares an accusation with financial institutions through the process created under H.R. 6729, banks may choose to close that person’s accounts, without process or explanation. Even if the person is innocent, the nonprofit cannot be sued for
spreading false accusations and effectively blocking the individual from the financial system, and the bill even explicitly prohibits the Treasury from requiring nonprofits to show that an accusation was shared in good faith.
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