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The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act,” or the “RESTRICT Act (SB 686),” was introduced earlier this month ny Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD).

The RESTRICT Act, in its current form, authorizes the Executive Branch to take appropriate measures against information, communications, and technology (ICT) products or service providers. The Act focuses on those firms owned or controlled by “foreign adversaries” that are deemed to pose an undue or unacceptable risk to national security. 

The “appropriate measures'' that are authorized by the Act can range from banning an ICT product or service to a more nuanced risk assessment and mitigation process. A foreign government or regime is designated as a “foreign adversary” if the government finds that it “is engaged in a long-term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to the national security of the United States or security and safety of United States persons.”

This appears to be the Patriot Act for technology, and awards the government broad enforcement powers, “the Secretary may undertake any other action as necessary to carry out the responsibilities under this Act that is not otherwise prohibited by law.” In the bill, such authority explicitly includes establishing rules, regulations, and procedures as the Secretary considers appropriate, issuing guidance and advisory opinions, and conducting investigations of violations of any authorization, order, mitigation measure, regulation, or prohibition issued under it.

The RESTRICT Act has bipartisan support in the Senate, is backed by the Biden administration and, if passed, provides the secretary of commerce with broad authority to mitigate identified risks and to enforce such measures with hefty civil and criminal penalties.

This is a digital “Patriot Act” and provides the Secretary with broad unconstitutional powers to violate privacy norms and further erode public trust.

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