Author Of The Patriot Act Says NSA Surveillance Is An Abuse And Must End

from the about-time dept

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who was the chair of the House Judiciary Committee when it put forth the Patriot Act, and someone who’s not known for being afraid to support expanded surveillance, has now come out strongly against the NSA’s surveillance efforts, saying that they must end. He claims that he pushed back against the suggestions of the federal government when the Patriot Act was first proposed, to make sure that it wouldn’t take away our liberty. But he’s concerned about what’s become of the law that he brought forth. He insists that the law was never intended to approve the kind of spying and data collection done by the NSA, and the President’s belief that these efforts were authorized by Congress is false:

In his press conference on Friday, President Obama described the massive collection of phone and digital records as “two programs that were originally authorized by Congress, have been repeatedly authorized by Congress”. But Congress has never specifically authorized these programs, and the Patriot Act was never intended to allow the daily spying the Obama administration is conducting.

To obtain a business records order like the one the administration obtained, the Patriot Act requires the government to prove to a special federal court, known as a Fisa court, that it is complying with specific guidelines set by the attorney general and that the information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation. Intentionally targeting US citizens is prohibited.

Technically, the administration’s actions were lawful insofar as they were done pursuant to an order from the Fisa court. But based on the scope of the released order, both the administration and the Fisa court are relying on an unbounded interpretation of the act that Congress never intended.

Of course, what’s really, really frustrating about this is that most of the members of Congress only have themselves to blame for not knowing what’s going on. Many did know, and Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall repeatedly asked the other members of Congress to ask these questions and to learn more about how the NSA was using a “secret” interpretation to do much more surveillance than the public and many in Congress believed the law allowed. The fact that all of those Representatives and Senators ignored them until now is incredibly frustrating.

It’s great that Sensenbrenner is speaking out strongly now. I just wish he’d done it years ago when the issue was first raised.

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Comments on “Author Of The Patriot Act Says NSA Surveillance Is An Abuse And Must End”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: The terrorists have finally won.

Sorry but, ‘finally’? They won years ago, when the american people and the government, instead of coming together and making a stand that they would not be made to panic due to 9/11, instead did more than the terrorists could have ever dreamed of to destroy the government and the trust people have for it, all in a futile scramble to ‘feel(not be) safer’.

PW (profile) says:

Only himself to blame

First a question, why in Rep. Sensenbrenner do his opinion piece on a British news site (The Guardian) rather than an ‘merican one?

As for his version of what was intended, there was no lack of warnings from all of the public advocacy groups (EFF, ACLU, EPIC, CCR, et. al.), that the language rushed through in the Patriot Act could easily be interpreted as it has. They chose to ignore and fight vehemently to get this Act through at all costs with their most earnest convictions. To all of the Congress people who helped pass the Patriot Act, we should simply turn and give them the big middle finger knowing that regardless of their “intentions”, they’ve messed with this country in more ways than imaginable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Only himself to blame

? British news site (The Guardian) rather than an ‘merican one?

?Unveiling the Guardian’s new US homepage?, by Janine Gibson, The Guardian, Sept 14, 2011

The Guardian has launched a new US front page at Janine Gibson explains why

Today we’re unveiling the new url and front page for our US readers. It’s the first tiny step in our bid to improve the Guardian website for US users, and marks the beginning of our new digital operation based in New York.?

?Spencer Ackerman joins the Guardian as National Security Editor?, The Guardian (Press Release), May 8, 2013

Hire Reflects the Guardian’s commitment to transparency and accountability

? Ackerman begins at the Guardian on June 3 and is based in the DC bureau as part the Guardian’s growing presence in the nation’s capitol.?

Transmitte (profile) says:

It bothers me that he the NSA is using “But we’re protecting you from terrorism!!” by using that tired excuse for encroaching/eroding our liberties. It’s like screaming “It’s for the children!” all over again.

Terrorism simply wins by making us turn on ourselves and do the dirty work for them. But, ya know, them on the hill are too smart for that to ever happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

This guy has said pretty much the exact same thing at least two times earlier. That he was SHOCKED that the government was using his laws to do exactly what his laws authorize the government to do. He has no credibility to continue to be shocked about it considering he’s continued to support renewing those same laws again and again.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Absolute Power Corrupts

Privacy is gone. Companies have been doing data-mining for years and occasionally get caught for abusive tactics. The Obama campaign won reelection based, in part, on data-mining. But now the IRS has been exposed as abusing the power of the State for essentially political purposes.

Based on anecdotal evidence, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that the NSA (like IRS) snooping activities could be used for nefarious purposes. (Also don’t forget the new facility being built in Utah.

Also how effective has this snooping been? It evidently did not expose the Boston Marathon bombers, the Sandy Hook School mass killer, and it would not likely to be effective against spontaneous acts of terrorism. So is all this supposed snooping actually cost-effective?

So do we allow a police state in the name of supposed security that has the potential to be used for nefarious purposes (despite the denials)?????????? I say not.

Anonymous Coward says:

what a shame that those that propose the different bills, regardless of the true purpose for implementing them, can never see what some ass hole in law enforcement is actually going to do with it. the stupidity is that all those in Congress should know exactly what will happen with any and all bills. ie, they will be abused, they will be twisted they will be used in the ways those using them want them to be used. and in 99% of cases, it’s the fault of Congress that things go down this road. they never think ahead. look at how Congress has just bent over and given, basically, carte blanche to the entertainment industries. the law has been changed so that the sharing of music and films has not only been reclassed from civil crime to criminal crime, the punishments are absolutely out of this world! how can anyone in sound mind really think that because someone shared multiple copies of software, that person can be imprisoned for 87months! that is outrageous! how can anyone be automatically assumed guilty of a copyright crime based on nothing other than an IP address? why should anyone automatically be assumed guilty in the first place? and then only be given a chance to prove innocence if he/she can afford it! the law has become a rich persons toy! he can use it for anything just to get a conviction on someone even when the person is innocent. it has gone back to the days of the dark ages and those that write and propose the laws today should be ashamed of themselves!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

the stupidity is that all those in Congress should know exactly what will happen with any and all bills. ie, they will be abused, they will be twisted they will be used in the ways those using them want them to be used.

Indeed. It is the Murphy’s Law of Legislation: Anything that can be abused will be abused.

Corollary: Everything can be abused.

With that in mind, the responsible legislator will craft his or her laws to minimize the damage caused by abuse.

ShellMG (profile) says:

“The Patriot Act itself provides statutory damages of $10,000 per person for damages…if there is a successful lawsuit then the money comes out of the Justice Dept.’s funding.” – Rep. Sensenbrenner in a radio interview.

I wonder if we Verizon (and VZW) customers are due a refund? Maybe a class action is in order, but then we’d see a small sum and the lawyers would cash in.

DannyB (profile) says:

Can they ever let go of this data now that they have it?

Even if this massive spying on citizens were to stop, does anyone believe the government can ever let go of this data now that they have it.

In fact, do you think that anyone in government could bring themselves to ever scale back this spying. Some might want to prevent its expansion, but I doubt anyone wants to or would be able to ever scale it back.

Like the federal budget, like politicians’ ethics, like an object near a black hole, the size of this spying operation can move in only one direction.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Foreign Sovereignty

A side issue to the “War on Terror” is that the US ignores the sovereignty of foreign countries. The drone strikes being one example, even if the US has some sort of supposed “approval” to conduct those operations.

The Washington Post had this headline today: “Merkel, other European leaders raise concerns on U.S. surveillance”

So the issue is not simply purported “rogue” individuals like Snowden or Manning, but how the US treats the rest of the world. For example, the US loudly proclaims that China is committing cyber-security attacks against the US, but the US, as the NSA leaks point-out, is itself committing cyber-security improprieties. The US has lost its moral high ground.

John85851 (profile) says:

You ask why these Representatives and Senators didn’t speak up earlier? Like during the McCarthy years when people accused critics of being “communists”, people now accuse critics of “supporting terrorism” and no one wants to be accused of that, even if it’s completely false. After Sept 11, how many times did we hear “If you don’t support the government then you support terrorism” or some version of that?

And guess what happens 5, 10, 15 years later, after these kinds of “anti-terrorism” policies are put into place?

Instead of telling us we have nothing to fear, why don’t these government agencies define what they mean by “terrorist”? If they’re so willing to break so many civil liberties, at least tell us who you’re looking for. Or do they really want to cast a net and sweep up everything they find?

Like some other posters said, what happens when the government catches something else in their sweep? They might currently be looking for terrorist activity, but what happens if their sweep catches you buying pot? And what if you’re actually buying pot where it’s legal (but not legal at the federal level), but the NSA agent has a quota to fill so he flags your number as suspicious?

And what will happen to this Senator when a lowly NSA agent mistakenly (or not) links his phone to a “terrorist”? Will the Senator be detained or will he start screaming about how this was a bad law in the first place because it now affects him?

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