Bipartisan Effort Introduced to Reform the PATRIOT Act

It didn’t take long for a couple members of Congress to introduce legislation to reform the PATRIOT Act, the law at the heart of the recent NSA controversy. Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and John Conyers (D-MI) have introduced legislation that would reform Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to require intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain only records that are necessary to a specific investigation into terrorist activity:

An unlikely duo of a senior Democrat and young Tea Party Republican will introduce legislation on Friday aimed at reining in the government’s surveillance programs.

The LIBERT-E Act from Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.) would narrow the Patriot Act to limit the government’s spying powers.

“Vacuuming up details from the lives of ordinary Americans is not what Congress signed on to when it enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the 1970s, or when it amended the law through the USA PATRIOT Act a decade ago,” the lawmakers wrote in a joint op-ed published in the Huffington Post and HotAir. “Many rank-and-file congressmen were shocked to learn that the law has been stretched to authorize such blanket surveillance.”
The Conyers-Amash bill would require the government to show “specific and articulable” facts that the records are material to the investigation and “pertain only to individuals under such investigation.”

Using this section of the law, the NSA obtained authority from a secret court to force Verizon (and, likely, other phone companies) to turn over the phone records of millions of customers, even if they are not suspected of terrorist activity. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who authored and introduced the PATRIOT Act, has said that the NSA’s interpretation of the law is “excessive and un-American” and supports efforts to put better privacy protections in place.

Most polls have shown that Americans oppose the NSA’s broad surveillance techniques and many members of Congress have expressed concern about the program. However, the LIBERT-E Act’s future is uncertain.

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