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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  1. icon
    John85851 (profile), 11 Jun 2013 @ 3:56pm

    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?

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130607/18020323369/sen-lindsey-graham-verizon-customer- im-glad-nsa-is-harvesting-my-data-because-terrorists.shtml#comments

    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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