Saturday, October 26, 2013

Moves in Congress to Limit NSA Spying

Rep. Jim Sensenbreenner (R-Wisconsin), one of the main sponsors of the Patriot Act, has authored a bill to limit some of the NSA's domestic spying and make the courts that oversee it more accountable:
Sensenbrenner, who authored the Patriot Act, has become a vocal opponent of the NSA's sweeping surveillance apparatus since Edward Snowden, a former analyst at the agency, began leaking information about its programs earlier this year. Sensenbrenner has said that both the Obama and Bush administrations have misinterpreted a key part of the Patriot Act, Section 215, and used it as legal backing for its data collection.

"The NSA has gone far beyond the intent of the Patriot Act, particularly in the accumulation and storage of metadata," Sensenbrenner told National Journal earlier this month. "Had Congress known that the Patriot Act had been used to collect metadata, the bill would have never been passed."

An earlier draft of Sensenbrenner's bill that circulated publicly would make the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court more transparent by requiring it disclose some of its decisions and install an "office of the special advocate," which would be able to appeal the court's decisions. It would also limit Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, grant the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board subpoena powers on matters of privacy and national security, and reduce the bulk data collection outline in Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
According to some vote counters, this could pass the House. These changes strike me as easy to avoid if the administration really wanted to, and I gather the Senate is working on an even more limited bill. More significant than this law is the overall change in attitude among our governing elite, away from fear of terrorism and toward concern about the monstrous spying machine we have created.

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