Patrick Leahy

PATRIOT Act author introduces measure to end NSA bulk data collection

James Sensenbrenner

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author and primary sponsor of the USA PATRIOT Act, announced on Wednesday that he would introduce legislation, the USA FREEDOM Act, to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone and Internet metadata.

“My view of the PATRIOT Act hasn’t changed,” said Sensenbrenner at a Cato Institute conference on NSA surveillance.

“What has changed is what two administrations, Bush 43 and the Obama Administration, have done after I left office as chairman of the [House] Judiciary Committee and did not have my tart oversight pen to send oversight letters that usually were cosigned by Congressman [John] Conyers, then-the ranking member, to the Justice Department, and specifically acting like a crabby, old professors when they were non-responsive in their answers,” he explained.

Sensenbrenner has become a fierce critic of the NSA’s surveillance techniques, referring to them as “excessive and un-American” in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. The NSA has justified the bulk data collection through a controversial provision of the PATRIOT Act. He contends that the NSA is defying congressional intent as the provision, Section 215, allows intelligence agencies to seize records related to an actual investigation into terrorist activity.

Ted Cruz says the new and improved USA FREEDOM Act would end the NSA’s unconstitutional spying program

The new version of the USA FREEDOM Act rolled out on Tuesday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has picked up the support of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who announced the addition of his name a cosponsor.

The latest version of the USA FREEDOM Act, a compromise Leahy worked out with the White House, would end the National Service Agency’s bulk metadata collection program as well as add a civil liberties panel to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to provide some much-needed oversight.

Cruz hailed the measure a bipartisan approach to ending NSA spying.

“Republicans and Democrats are showing America that the government can respect the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens, while at the same time, giving law enforcement the tools needed to target terrorists,” said Cruz in a press release on Tuesday. “The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 ends the government’s bulk record collection program and implements other necessary surveillance reforms.”

“Importantly, it also sends a strong signal that a bipartisan coalition in Congress is working to safeguard our privacy rights,” said Cruz. “I am honored to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle toward delivering this bill to the President’s desk for his signature. We need to protect the constitutional rights of every American.”

Stop the NSA: There is a new push in Congress to end the NSA’s unconstitutional domestic surveillance programs

There may finally be a passable piece of legislation in Congress to end the National Service Agency’s bulk metadata collection program as well as add some much-needed oversight to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

After working with the White House on compromise language, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) rolled out legislation — a new USA FREEDOM Act — today that would protect Americans’ civil liberties from the NSA’s spying programs:

Leahy’s bill would prevent the possibility of that broad collection by requiring agents use specific terms in their searches.

It also requires the government to disclose the number of people caught up in its searches, declare how many of them were Americans and provides more ways for tech companies to report the number of government requests for information they receive, which firms have said is critical to restoring people’s trust in their products.

Finally, Leahy’s bill would also add a panel of special civil liberties advocates to the secretive court overseeing intelligence operations, which currently only hears arguments from the government.

In announcing the bill, Leahy trumpeted support from tech companies including Apple and Google, which have teamed up with other tech giants in the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, as well as privacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

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“Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent.” — H. L. Mencken

Lawmakers targeting the NSA’s unconstitutional spying have a big card to play if Obama and Congress don’t get behind reform

Privacy advocates are closely watching discussions in the Senate over the USA FREEDOM Act, a measure originally intended to end the NSA’s unconstitutional bulk data collection program and protect Americans’ civil liberties. They’re hoping that a strengthened version of the bill will pass the Senate Judiciary Committee, and they may get their wish:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead Senate sponsor of the original USA Freedom Act, has repeatedly expressed disappointment in the House-passed version of the bill.

He has pledged to “fight for a stronger USA FREEDOM Act” that bans bulk data collection.

Other pro-reform committee members have joined Leahy’s calls.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he is “very hopeful” that Leahy will move ahead with his version of the USA Freedom Act.
[…]
Harley Geiger, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said these calls for stronger reforms from Senate Judiciary Committee members, including the Chairman, are “very encouraging.”

Geiger said he is “optimistic that they will make improvements to [the House-passed USA Freedom Act], but the precise nature of improvements is still being discussed.”

House committee clears measure prohibiting unconstitutional NSA spying

USA FREEDOM Act

In a unanimous vote on Wednesday afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee passed the USA FREEDOM Act, a bipartisan measure that would prohibit the National Security Agency’s collection of innocent Americans’ phone records.

“Today’s strong, bipartisan vote by the House Judiciary Committee takes us one step closer to ending bulk collection once and for all and safeguards Americans’ civil liberties as our intelligence community keeps us safe from foreign enemies who wish us harm,” Chairman Bob Goodlatte said in a statement.

The USA FREEDOM Act prohibits the bulk data collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and closes pen-and-trap and National Security Letter loopholes through which the NSA could obtain metadata.

The measure requires the federal government to seek FISA court approval for records on a case-by-case basis and increases congressional oversight of the programs. It also establishes a panel to consider privacy concerns and allows tech firms to disclose court request for consumers’ information.

“As the Committee of primary jurisdiction,” said Goodlatte, “we urge the House and Senate to move expeditiously on this legislation so that we can begin to restore confidence in the way intelligence is gathered and protect the privacy rights of all Americans.”

Privacy advocates are concerned that the USA FREEDOM Act was watered down too much in the deal stuck to bring it up for a vote in committee. The sense, however, is that the measure is better than the pro-NSA bill that is currently in the House Intelligence Committee.

It turns out people don’t like being spied on after all

See Video

Did you know that the federal government can get access to your emails because of a loophole in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA). The loophole means that after 180 days, your emails lose protected status and can be accessed by third-party providers without a warrant.

This video, produced by End180Days.org, offers a humorous and informative take on the very serious issue of electronic privacy. Three measures that would close the loophole have been introduced in Congress. United Liberty has covered two of them, ECPA Amendments Act (Leahy-Lee) and the Email Privacy Act (Polis-Yoder-Graves).

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul praise NSA court ruling

The preliminary federal court ruling issued on Monday which found the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program to likely be unconstitutional has drawn bipartisan praise from several civil liberties advocates on Capitol Hill.

Among the politicians praising the ruling were Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), both potential contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

“The government has no business conducting overbroad surveillance of ordinary, law-abiding citizens. At the same time, we must provide for national security and thwart terrorist plots against our homeland and our citizens,” said Cruz via a statement, adding that the Obama Administration “seems to consistently favor undermining the rights of law-abiding Americans.”

“The NSA’s massive data mining program raises serious civil liberties concerns, and Judge [Richard] Leon deserves praise for giving the program a close review,” he said. “The Senate too must carefully scrutinize our surveillance programs to ensure that they protect American citizens without infringing on their constitutional rights.”

Paul, who has introduced and cosponsored a measures to restore the Fourth Amendment, commended Judge Leon for “upholding and protecting our Fourth Amendment rights.”

Sensenbrenner to introduce USA FREEDOM Act today

More than two weeks after outlining principles behind the USA FREEDOM Act in a speech at the Cato Institute, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) will reportedly introduce the anti-domestic surveillance measure today with strong bipartisan support, according to Breitbart, a conservative news outlet.

Sensenbrenner, who sponsored the PATRIOT Act in 2001, has emerged as one of the primary critics of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs and contends that the Justice Department and intelligence is relying on a broad interpretation of the anti-terrorism law, far beyond congressional intent, to collect Americans’ phone and Internet metadata.

The FREEDOM Act would limit the NSA’s ability to collect data “adopting a uniform standard for intelligence gathering under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act,” according to Sensenbrenner.

What’s more, the measure would reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) by creating a civil liberties advocate, create new reporting requirements and oversight from Congress for the court, and allow the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board subpoena authority. The legislation will also reform National Security Letters (NSL) to ensure that the current administration or its predecessors don’t use another agency to collect bulk data.


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