Senator Cotton Introduces Bill To Extend Unconstitutional NSA Surveillance

from the how-nice-of-him dept

I happen to be in Washington DC this week for some events and meetings -- and it's a... ridiculous week to be here, apparently (of course, that could be true of just about any week here). Earlier this week, we noted the pathological ridiculousness of surveillance state apologists like former NSA top lawyer Stewart Baker arguing that the Paris attacks are evidence for why the NSA should not roll back its Section 215 collection. The 215 collection is, of course, the completely unconstitutional (as declared by both an appeals court and the White House's own civil liberties board) program by which the NSA slurped up basically all phone records, claiming that Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act allowed this.

Of course, the primary sponsor of the PATRIOT Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, has flat out said that Section 215 was written to prevent that kind of mass surveillance, not to enable it. And so, earlier this year, Congress finally pushed through the USA Freedom Act, which was far from perfect, but still did put an end to the Section 215 collection as it stands (while still leaving open ways for the NSA to effectively get the same data). There was a six-month "transition period" which is about to close, meaning that we're officially mere days away from ending the specific 215 bulk collection.

Or, maybe not. As Baker hinted at, the surveillance state apologists are gleefully exploiting the Paris attacks to try to claw back this very, very minor victory against mass surveillance. Senator Tom Cotton quickly rushed out a bill to "postpone" indefinitely the transition away from the 215 program, because of the Paris attacks.
"The terrorist attacks in Paris last week are a terrible reminder of the threats we face every day. And it made clear that the President’s empty policy of tough talk and little action isn’t working against ISIS. Regrettably, these policy follies also extend to the Intelligence Community, whose hands were tied by the passage of the USA FREEDOM ACT. This legislation, along with President Obama’s unilateral actions to restrict the Intelligence Community’s ability to track terrorist communications, takes us from a constitutional, legal, and proven NSA collection architecture to an untested, hypothetical one that will be less effective. And this transition will occur less than two weeks from today, at a time when our threat level is incredibly high.

"If we take anything from the Paris attacks, it should be that vigilance and safety go hand-in-hand. Now is not the time to sacrifice our national security for political talking points. We should allow the Intelligence Community to do their job and provide them with the tools they need to keep us safe. Passing the Liberty Through Strength Act will empower the NSA to uncover threats against the United States and our allies, help keep terrorists out of the United States, and track down those responsible in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks."
Almost everything in Cotton's statement is a lie. First of all, the FREEDOM Act hasn't even gone into effect yet, so even if it did "tie the hands" of the intelligence community, it had not done so yet. Second, the program has been declared unconstitutional by multiple courts and the administration's own review board. For him to call it constitutional suggests he has no problem flat out lying. Also the idea that it's "proven"? Need we remind you of two facts? (1) To date, the Section 215 program has never -- not even once -- been shown to have been useful in stopping a terrorist attack. (2) It clearly didn't make a difference in dealing with the Paris attacks (and, again, notably the US has even greater surveillance powers overseas, as do the French). So to claim that this one unconstitutional and proven useless program is necessary is just... weird.

Sensenbrenner was at an event I attended last evening and said that he didn't think Cotton's ridiculous bill had much of a chance, but did note that it was hardly the end of surveillance state apologists from trying to expand unconstitutional surveillance powers. Cotton's is just the first attempt, but expect there to be many more.

Filed Under: bulk collection, nsa, paris attacks, section 215, surveillance, tom cotton


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:36am

    what kind of suicide moron would work for the NSA?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:37am

    skynet vs anonymous?

    starting today

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:45am

    freedom!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:55am

    The spy agencies fail to put together the information that they have to prevent attacks, because they have too much information spread out between too many people and agencies. Rather than admit they need to streamline their information handling, they claim that they do not have enough ability to gather information, which is an excuse that is becoming very thin.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      "The spy agencies fail to put together the information that they have to prevent attacks, because they have too much information spread out between too many people and agencies."

      THIS IS AN ASININE LIE:
      they fail to prevent the attacks because that is not their purpose.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    A Non-Mouse, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:59am

    Politician Logic

    "Senator Tom Cotton quickly rushed out a bill to "postpone" indefinitely the transition away from the 215 program, because of the Paris attacks..."

    ...that the still functional 215 program failed to detect.

    Now there's some logic for ya!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 7:50pm

      Re: Politician Logic

      Clearly the fact that it was scheduled to end at some point crippled it, keeping them from being able to find the attackers in time. The only possible way a mass-spying program can ever be effective is if those involved know without a doubt that the program will never be shut down.

      /poe

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:16am

    I've been programming for a while now. I'm not good at it, but I have learned one important thing: sometimes you have to chuck the code and start again completely from scratch. This forces you to rethink the path taken that just did not work no matter how much fiddling you did.

    The NSA Surveillance obviously does not work and they've had plenty of fiddling time. Senator Cotton is removing the one thing that might force them to rethink their strategy and come up with something that does work. But no. If they extend the surveillance then the NSA is stuck with it no matter what. Got to justify the money being spent on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:19am

    We need to call him out for the lies

    Almost everything in Cotton's statement is a lie.
    We need more media outlets to cover this story and call out these lies. Instead, we get articles about we should stop refugees from coming into the country because they're Muslims ISIS might be hiding in them.

    It's interesting how people talk about gun rights and such, but no one seems to talk about the right of privacy and how this collection of data needs to stop.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 23 Nov 2015 @ 2:40am

      Re: We need to call him out for the lies

      It makes perfect sense when you realise the gun rights brigade see owning a gun and/or shooting stuff as a catch-all solution.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:35am

    If only they put this much enthusiasm and effort into serving the public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 12:05pm

    The terrorist attacks in Paris last week are a terrible reminder of the threats we face every day.
    Sorry, Senator Cotton. The attacks in Paris are a reminder of terrible tragedies that, while horrific, occur infrequently. You, however, are a reminder of the sort of threat we face every day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 12:11pm

    Fuck Senator Cotton right in his tyrannical ear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 1:22pm

    If the Constitution is the ultimate law of the land...

    then those who conspire to violate it should be punished accordingly, with the ultimate punishment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 4:10pm

    The most dangerous terrorists work for the government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 4:44pm

    I assume he made a caveat in said bill that exempts himself and his friends from any such surveillance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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