Senator Leahy Slams NSA Surveillance, Aims For Changes To FISA Court And NSA's Powers

from the about-time dept

There have been a number of proposals put forth in response to the Ed Snowden leaks, but many don’t have very much support. However, having Senate Judiciary Committee boss Patrick Leahy pushing strongly for reforms is likely to get some attention. At just about the same time that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was slamming NSA surveillance to President Obama’s face at the UN, Leahy was giving a speech slamming the NSA’s practices, as well as the limp oversight of the FISA Court.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the powerful chairman of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday strongly endorsed a series of sweeping restrictions on U.S. surveillance programs — from ending the bulk collection of Americans’ phone call logs to creating new oversight mechanisms to keep the NSA in check.

In a speech at Georgetown University Law Center, Leahy (D-Vt.) said the government “has not made its case” that the ability to collect Americans’ phone records en masse under the PATRIOT Act is “an effective counterterrorism tool, especially in light of the intrusion on Americans’ privacy rights.”

While he reiterated his support for a bill that was introduced a few months ago that restricts Section 230, his renewed focus on the FISA Court may be the more interesting tidbit:

Leahy also called for a “hard look at the existing oversight structure and what we are asking of the judges appointed to the FISA Court.” Those judges, he explained, have taken on a “regulatory role not envisioned in the original version” of the law. And the court, he said, hamstrung by the NSA’s misunderstanding of its own programs or the agency’s misleading statements, hasn’t always been able to conduct meaningful oversight.

Leahy rejected the idea that the FISA Court is an “unthinking rubber stamp,” but he did raise the possibility that Congress will rethink the court’s responsibilities and structure

This is a key point in all of this that is often missed in the debates. The FISA court was supposed to just look at warrant requests from law enforcement to make sure they make sense. But it’s changed into a body that is actually making law, by figuring out how to interpret various statutes, often in secrecy, without any opposing viewpoints presented. That’s not what it was designed to do, and it’s part of how we ended up in the situation we’re in today.

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Comments on “Senator Leahy Slams NSA Surveillance, Aims For Changes To FISA Court And NSA's Powers”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, yeah, absolutely. That’s not in question (and I’m wondering where you got the idea that it was?). I just wish someone was spearheading this who wasn’t quite so openly corrupt. I don’t like having Leahy as the face of anti-NSA rhetoric because it would be really easy for critics to dismiss him due to his other actions as Senator.

Loki says:

Re: Re:

Sure, he’s making points, but that’s politics. I’ve watched for decades as these guys have rattled their sabres but far more often then not when it’s time to put word to actions, suddenly it’s a different matter and somehow the votes and follow through are never quite there.

Until I see some legislation actually get passed that make some real and substantial change, it’s all just posturing for the masses to try to keep their jobs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mr. Leahy is going out on a limb here. I bet a certain someone is thinking Mr. Leahy has forgotten the message contained in that letter he received back in 2001 with all the white powder in it. I bet that certain someone is planning a stronger message this time. I bet that certain someone is just the type who thinks he can break all the rules he wants if he thinks it will protect America. I just wish I knew who the fuck that certain someone is because he deserves a one-way ticket to hell!

Anonymous Coward says:

Meanwhile, Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has been put into an isolation cell.

That’s what you get for criticizing Putin for his election rigging. Putin, the man whose rose from the USSR Spying agency, the KGB to take power.

It’s funny, you think you have a democracy, but then weird decisions start getting made, and email leaks drive out party leaders, and secret treaties, and the press under DA notices, reporters in jail on trumped up charges, Government defines ‘press’ to ‘approved reporters’.

FM HIlton (profile) says:

Power is as power does

Leahy is definitely one of the most powerful people in the Congress, and I’d be hard-pressed to find one that can surpass him in getting some things done.

I think he’s serious, and when the head of the Senate Intelligence committee gets serious, I’d say it’s time that the NSA and the FISA court people start listening to him.

Because he can make their lives completely miserable, if he chooses to.

I only hope he can, and will, to the fullest extent of his power.

Someone has to.

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