If you yearn for more terrifying government intrusion into your life, then the "Restrict Act" is the bill for you. Clue number one, this bill is poorly conceived and exemplifies dangerous government overreach with its endorsement by Biden's National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan.
Jake Sullivan Statement on Restrict Act
Translated, Sullivan applauds the idea that Americans cannot make good decisions regarding their internet choices related to all devices, virtual (VPNs) or otherwise, in their homes. Also, the Secretary of Commerce, who the President appoints, will be in charge of the "systematic framework" to track your devices and "certain transactions" and then penalize those who step out of line. All in the name of national security risks—sound familiar?
Secretary of Commerce
However, in truth, this bill, sponsored by Senators Mark Warner and John Thune, would fundamentally alter freedoms related to the ways Americans use the internet—with intrusive consequences similar to the abuses seen after the introduction of the Patriot Act.
Is this Really about TikTok?
Dubbed the TikTok bill because of discussion over banning the app because of TikTok's ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the bill has very little to do with the Chinese-controlled app. Instead, it lists a number of foreign adversaries who allegedly pose a national security risk. China is one of the named foreign adversaries.
The Commerce Secretary has control over the list of foreign adversaries and does not have to notify Congress when he or she changes the list. The bill allows a 15-day delay in notifying the President of those on the list. The Secretary may also create, keep, and revise "lists of foreign persons." Anyone who poses a threat to critical infrastructure (like elections) can be deemed an adversary because of how critical infrastructure was defined in section 1016(e) of the Patriot Act. If your name is on that list, due process seems to go out the window.
Designated adversaries/Restrict Act
This bill authorizes the Secretary and "relevant executive department and agency heads" to fully control "any risk arising from" your devices or your activity on the internet in your own home. Those department heads, see (P. 8), include pretty much anyone the government sees fit to appoint. Section 3 addresses the "relevant" department and agency heads and the many justifications for their intrusion. The rationales include almost anything they deem "poses an unacceptable risk."
Restrict Act/Section 3
What kinds of virtual and otherwise devices are fair game, you ask? Any and all. The list is comprehensive. It includes e-commerce sites, payment technologies, online marketplaces, biotechnology, synthetic biology, post-quantum cryptology, quantum key distribution (security keys used to encrypt and decrypt messages), and more.
The Secretary has unlimited funds and can hire additional law enforcement at his discretion to enforce action. Information submitted for "a covered transaction" (investigation) is exempt from FOIA.
Restrict Act/FOIA exempt
Penalties for things the government doesn't want you to do can be between $250,000 or up to $1,000,000 and imprisonment "for not more than 20 years or both."
This bill seems to be another Trojan horse meant to usher in more government surveillance of Americans. If TikTok is genuinely a national security threat, perhaps a more focused ban on TikTok is in order, or maybe Americans should make better choices without the government intervening.