Author Of The PATRIOT Act Goes To EU Parliament To Admit Congress Failed, And The NSA Is Out Of Control

from the didn't-see-that-coming dept

It's already strange enough that the author of the PATRIOT Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, has come out strongly against the NSA's mass spying, said that James Clapper should be fired and prosecuted, and introduced sweeping new legislation that would significantly curtail the NSA's activities. If you've followed civil liberties issues over the past dozen years or so, Sensenbrenner used to be very much in the camp of folks like Rep. Mike Rogers and Senator Dianne Feinstein -- seen as carrying water for the intelligence community (and industry). The change of heart (even if he claims the original PATRIOT Act was never meant to allow this stuff) is quite impressive.

Even so, it's perhaps even more incredible to see that Sensenbrenner has now gone over to the EU Parliament to admit that the NSA is out of control and needs to be reined in. While it doesn't sound like he got all the way to a complete apology, he appears to have come pretty close. According to Bridget Johnson's writeup at the PJ Tatler:
Sensenbrenner told the EU parliamentarians that “Congress knew the country needed new tools and broader authorities to combat those who meant to harm us, but we never intended to allow the National Security Agency to peer indiscriminately into the lives of innocent people all over the world.”

Sensenbrenner noted that he “worked under strict time constraints” to forge the Patriot Act and get it passed.

“I firmly believe the Patriot Act saved lives by strengthening the ability of intelligence agencies to track and stop potential terrorists, but in the past few years, the National Security Agency has weakened, misconstrued and ignored the civil liberty protections we drafted into the law,” he said, adding that the NSA “ignored restrictions painstakingly crafted by lawmakers and assumed a plenary authority we never imagined.”

“Worse, the NSA has cloaked its operations behind such a thick cloud of secrecy that, even if the NSA promised reforms, we would lack the ability to verify them.”

Sensenbrenner said the “constant stream of disclosures about US surveillance since June has surprised and appalled me as much as it has the American public and our international allies.”
Sensenbrenner promised more strict oversight from Congress, but also noted (realistically) that Congress's authority is mostly limited to domestic spying -- and that the US government needed to work more closely with foreign governments concerning foreign spying. Given who's saying it, this is a rather startling statement.


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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 10:39am

    It's not "strange": it's sheer PR.

    Do you ever even suspect politicians of lying? The Patriot Act isn't accidentally bad nor is NSA actually exceeding what the fascists in Congress intended. That some are now saying some mollifying crap is irrelevant.

    When people are in jail for known crimes and NSA is limited then you might give a mention still with huge skepticism, but until some actual effect, why even bother to read this crap? (I read only the headline, fanboys.)

    Techdirt's official motto: This isn't surprising.

    06:39:45[h-522-0]

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 10:56am

      Re: It's not "strange": it's sheer PR.

      " (I read only the headline, fanboys.)
      Techdirt's official motto: This isn't surprising."

      The juxtaposition of the above statements is wonderful. It's good that you're such a genius that you don't need to actually read the article (where your concerns were actually addressed, you cancerous fucking moron).

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 11:20am

      Re: It's not "strange": it's sheer PR.

      (I read only the headline, fanboys.)


      This is why you are never on topic. Never add value to the discussion. It is also the reason why you are pretty much always reported into oblivion.

      You've made your reputation on being a troll and everyone recognizes it. Enjoy being downgraded into a nearly invisible one line, no matter how much you soapbox off topic.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 10:49am

    Congress's authority

    Congress's authority is mostly limited…

    The National Security Agency ”operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense”.

    Article I, Section 8
    The Congress shall have power…

    To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

    Is someone really claiming that Congress doesn't have authority to regulate an agency of the Department of Defense?

    Maybe there's some clever lawyer out there who wants to argue, “Cyber isn't land or naval, so there, nyah, nyah”. Maybe a judge might even buy that argument. Who knows? I don't think anyone's formally argued it yet. But short of that, Congress' authority over the military isn't limited to just domestic deployments.

     

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      BOO BOO THE FOOL, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 1:27am

      Re: Congress's authority

      technically they can regulate it the same was they regulate the phone system cyber is land because even though it is in the web it still uses physical switches and servers and routers to route data. the internet is hardly a cloud of information all the information is stored some where physically on hard disk, tapes and what other means that are used. problem is people dont like when regulating the internet is being discussed

       

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 11:10am

    Politics and honesty

    An "honest politician" may be an oxymoron, but I think that one can be a politician and also an honest person - Sensenbrenner may be just that, in that he has admitted (indirectly perhaps) a mistake made for all the best (in his mind) reasons.

     

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      mb, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 2:06am

      Re: Politics and honesty

      Hope so. In that case his next move would be to celebrate Snowdon as a national hero and publically offer his sincere thanks.

       

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    Transmitte (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 11:12am

    Hey OOTB, if this site is so annoying, why do you keep trolling it? I'm Sure Alex at infowars would love to have you over. FAUX news might be more your speed as well.

     

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      CK20XX (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 11:52am

      Re:

      He's actually said in the past that his just likes to make people miserable. He fancies himself a vigilante giving criminals what they deserve. The problem is most people are criminals in his eyes, as if he's the living incarnation of corrupt law.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 11:16am

    As I have said before, the NSA needs defunded and shut down. A true body of independent investigators is needed to go through the mess and determine what should be revived and what should be left dead. All management should be fired or moved to nonsecurity jobs and the whole mess started anew with a new leadership that might get the message of what is or is not ethical.

    Nor is the call of it being legal of any value. As I have said before, illegal laws get passed and stay legal till they have had their day in court. At such time laws can and are from time to time ruled illegal or unconstitutional. It has been the aim of the agencies to prevent court challenge for this very reason. The administration as well as the DOJ, and these various agencies including the FBI, the NSA, crap even the NYPD have used confidentiality in the attempt to stifle any court challenges.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 11:51am

    Completely bogus claim on congress' power

    "Sensenbrenner promised more strict oversight from Congress, but also noted (realistically) that Congress's authority is mostly limited to domestic spying"

    That's completely, 100% bogus. Congress darn well can stop spying other nations and foreigners to by passing laws against it. Congress can defund or abolish the NSA altogether. Congress can charge the president with breaking the law and impeach and convict him if he tells the NSA and others to keep on engaging in illegal spying of foreigners.

    Congress wasn't given the power to declare war by the founders for nothing, nor was congress and it's powers listed first in the constitution and the president's listed second a mistake.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 6:16pm

      Re: Completely bogus claim on congress' power

      That's completely, 100% bogus. Congress darn well can stop spying other nations and foreigners to by passing laws against it.

      Are you sure? Congress' powers are limited by the Constitution, and I'm not sure what powers they have that could directly rein in foreign spying. They can rein in domestic spying under the 4th Amendment, but if the foreign spying is done by the executive branch, under the executive powers... it's not quite so easy.

      Now, they could pass a law, and perhaps no one would challenge it. I'm not against the idea, but it's not as easy as just saying "they can pass a law." Congress has limited powers.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 8:29pm

        Re: Re: Completely bogus claim on congress' power

        I guess they could refuse to pass a budget that gave NSA enough money to do all the foreign surveillance, they could cut their budget to rein them in indirectly.

        Instead they keep expanding the NSA budget. Then they act surprised at all the work that NSA does...legal or not.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:53am

        Re: Re: Completely bogus claim on congress' power

        So essentially, there is nobody that can say 'hey you guys know that human rights thingy? please do that'?

        (I'd figure this would just be your basic foreign policy issue btw, you know, who to trade with, who to drop bombs on, who to plants spies at, etc.)

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 3:18am

          Re: Re: Re: Completely bogus claim on congress' power

          I'd figure this would just be your basic foreign policy issue btw, you know, who to trade with, who to drop bombs on, who to plants spies at, etc.

          The United States Constitution was drafted in an earlier age. It was an age of absolute monarchs, tyrants and despots:   an age where the “divine right of kings” was not some quaint artifact or relic, but a very real and powerful theory in the governance of man in this world. In that summer of 1787 when the drafters convened in Philadelphia, across the Atlantic, in France, the Bourbon King Louis XVI still reigned: the French Revolution of 1789 would not begin for another two years, and His Most Christian Majesty would keep his head attached to his shoulders for another five, until January of 1793.

          The new institutions designed in Philadelphia in '87 were designed to meet the practical needs of a new nation existing among the nations of the world during that age. The president of our republic is not a monarch. He has no divine right. He was elected, not born. But it was always expected and planned that our head of state should meet and deal with crowned heads.

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 1:22am

        Re: Re: Completely bogus claim on congress' power

        … directly rein in foreign spying

        Spies traditionally steal documents, yes?

        Article I, Section 8
        The Congress shall have power…

        To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;


        When, under policy of the United States, the president sends agents to obtain a tangible items, then that looks like a “capture”.

        I don't think it matters whether it's a boat or a piece of paper: stealing is stealing, except when it's not. Say if you have a letter of marque or reprisal, then it's not quite stealing, exactly.

        If the goods taken happen to be less tangible, or if they're not really taken, but just copied, then your position —and mine— might be well contrasted against the position of the RIAA, and their friends at Obama's DoJ.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 8:25pm

      Re: Completely bogus claim on congress' power

      I'm not sure Congress can legislate in areas that are in the Presidents authority, any more than they can legislate how the Supreme Court should rule.

      Agreed? Separation of powers.

      That said, spying, diplomacy, foreign relations, ambassadors, and foreign treaties are all part of the Executive Branch.

      So possibly any legislation about foreign spying would be unconstitutional. I don't think they've ever passed similar laws and thus I don't think there's been a court case. Could be wrong about this though.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:59am

        Re: Re: Completely bogus claim on congress' power

        Separation of powers.


        Article I, Section 8
        The Congress shall have power…

        To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;


        When a foreign nation sends its spies to our shores, then I do not see any controversy over Congress' power to make law for the punishment of those spies. The spies are sent under the policy of that foreign nation to commit acts against our nation: The crime may be defined and punished by Congress.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 3:12pm

    I give the original author of the PAT RIOT act, credit for standing up right away and fixing what turned out to be an unconstitutional, abusive law.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 3:34pm

      Re:

      Yes, but I take points away for his being completely dismissive of all the people who expressed concern prior to its passage that it would result in exactly what has been happening.

       

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    mcinsand, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 3:34pm

    any consequences for breaking oath of office

    Along with the President, Senators and Congresspeople swear to uphold the constitution. Those that are supporting The Patriot Act are violating their oaths of office. Is there a way to hold them accountable beyond the ballot box? I wouldn't mind seeing them sent to Gitmo one tiny bit. In this 'war' against agencies that want to subvert our protected freedoms, they have subverted our protected freedoms. If we could prosecute them for turning their backs on their sworn duties, then maybe successors would think twice.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 3:37pm

      Re: any consequences for breaking oath of office

      Is there a way to hold them accountable beyond the ballot box?


      Not really, no. They can hold each other accountable through impeachment and expulsion, but that's not going to happen.

       

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      beltorak (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 7:08pm

      Re: any consequences for breaking oath of office

      Is there a way to hold them accountable beyond the ballot box?


      No, not really. And the ballot box doesn't really work either. Remember, in order to vote one asshat out, you have to vote another asshat in. If we could do 2008 over again things might have been much worse. Remember that senator John McCain was only upset about the spying when it was directed at the "elites"

      And, yes, elsewhere in the interview, McCain does complain about the extent of the NSA's spying... but not on ordinary Americans. No, the only thing that seems to upset him about it is when it impacts our relationships with "friends" in foreign governments.

       

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    Tom, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 5:56pm

    You ruined America you stupid fuck.

     

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    Darmok!, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 7:22pm

    Tanagra

    SHAKA! WHEN THE WALLS FELL!!! :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 7:36pm

    Sensenbrenner was not the author of the patriot act. asst attorney general Viet D. Dinh wrote it. sensenbrenner merely introduced it to congress.

     

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    Urinal Gum, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 9:11pm

    I don't get it. What is the big deal if you have nothing to hide? That's why I walk around naked while yelling my social security number.

     

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    romulusnr (profile), Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:31am

    Convenient bullshit

    Well yeah. I mean why else would Sensenbrenner have put the Patriot Act forward FOR RENEWAL IN 2011?!

    http://sensenbrenner.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=221502

    A lot has changed in two years huh Jimmy boy? Like that whole completely biffing 2012 and looking set to blow 2014 even harder.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:52am

    Executive power limited

    Congress has already passed FISA and UCMJ so there are already laws regulating
    what the armed forces and intelligence agencies may do.

    If Congress could not legislate, the UCMJ and the antitorture statute would be unconstitutional.

    But no one except the now discredited Bush memos claim that the president can torture or otherwise violate the laws passed by Congress.

    Lawyers under the Bush administration argued that the president had inherent power to order torture and the torture statute.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 6:11am

    'we would lack the ability to verify them' and that is the more worrying thing. regardless of what laws are changed or added, who is really going to know whether the NSA or any other 'security agency' is adhering to them? even the so-called 'oversight' has been a complete waste of time! those on that committee or court should be classed just as guilty as those taking 'secret interpretations and meanings' so as to be able to do what they wanted!

     

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    blahhh666, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 7:27am

    What else should they say? "Yea sure, we deliberately allowed NSA to spy on whole world, what you gonna do?" They have been called on spying and now they cover it up by saying "its not us, its NSA!"

     

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