Congress Warns DOJ That If It Doesn't Support NSA Reform Plan, It Won't Renew Key Patriot Act Provision

from the get-your-act-together dept

While the USA Freedom Act isn't perfect, it is one bill in Congress that has a lot of support and will fix many problems with the current NSA overreach. Much more needs to be done, but the USA Freedom Act is a good starting point. And yet, the Obama administration and his Justice Department have yet to take a public stand on the bill, and that seems to be annoying plenty of folks in Congress. At the recent Judiciary Committee hearings, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act and Section 215, made it abundantly clear that the DOJ/NSA's interpretation of his bill was simply incorrect and that they were abusing the system. As the sponsor of the USA Freedom Act to fix this misinterpretation, he pointed out that if the DOJ doesn't agree to support it, there's a good chance that Congress simply won't renew the provisions in Section 215 at all. Section 215, of course, is the part that has been misinterpreted by the DOJ, the FISA court, the NSA and the FBI to pretend it authorizes the collection of every phone record. In short, the message from Congress is: work with us to reform things, or we'll pull the authority altogether. Of course, some of us think that pulling the authority altogether might be a better long term solution.

And it's not just Sensenbrenner making those claims. Many others -- across the political spectrum -- made it clear during the hearing that the NSA's actions with regards to Section 215 were unacceptable and Congress is going to make them change things. Yes, nothing has happened yet, and Congressional bluster doesn't always lead to results, but it's becoming increasingly clear that the NSA (and the President's) desire to keep collecting everyone's metadata is not convincing anyone.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2014 @ 6:06am

    There seems to be here a presumption that virtually anything done by any branch of our federal government represents governmental overreach and must be truncated. Obviously, this presumption is not unique to here, and under the current environment of "They did and are doing what?!?" may lead the pendulum to swing to a position where otherwise legitimate surveillance activities are hamstrung by procedures that render such activities virtually impossible to perform in a timely manner, or perhaps even perform them at all. It is said that these agencies stretch the law. Does anyone seriously believe that the proposed advocate associated with the FISC court, a lawyer, will do anything less than broadly interpret his/her power and in many instances bring to a virtual halt time-sensitive and non-problematic investigations? This is a part of the proposed House bill that in my view is fraught with problems that should not be enacted in its current form. It is a provision that demands thoughtful consideration in an environment wholly apart from the current political-advantage seeking mob mentality.

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