Oregon lawmakers demand answers after a report alleges that the Trump administration spied on protesters’ electronic communication

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PORTLAND, OREGON - JULY 26: Federal police confront protesters in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland as the city experiences another night of unrest on July 26, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. For over 56 straight nights, protesters in downtown Portland have faced off in often violent clashes with the Portland Police Bureau and, more recently, federal officers. The demonstrations began to honor the life of George Floyd and other black Americans killed by law enforcement and have intensified as the Trump administration called in the federal officers.
  • Oregon lawmakers, including Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeffrey Merkley, have "serious concerns" about a report that federal agents spied on protesters in Portland.
  • A report in The Nation said that federal agents had tapped protesters' phones.
  • In a letter to the US Department of Homeland Security, the lawmakers say that may violate the US Constitution.
  • "Congress has enacted strict legal protections which require government agencies to obtain the approval of an independent judge before searching Americans' devices and surveilling their communications," the lawmakers wrote.
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The Trump administration may have violated the US Constitution by illegally spying on protesters in Portland, four Oregon lawmakers charged in a letter to Chad Wolf, acting head of the Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier this week, The Nation reported that federal agents deployed by President Donald Trump may have intercepted protesters' phone communications and extracted data from their electronic devices.

"Congress has enacted strict legal protections which require government agencies to obtain the approval of an independent judge before searching Americans' devices and surveilling their communications," states the September 25 letter, signed by US Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as well as US Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici.

"These recent reports, which allege that DHS has deployed high-tech surveillance technologies against protesters in Portland, raise serious concerns, which Congress has a responsibility to investigate," the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers ask DHS to come clean on whether it or any other government agency engaged in illegal surveillance —and whether DHS official Brian Murphy lied to Congress when, this summer, he denied the department had obtained any information from detained protesters' devices.

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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