Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, author of the Patriot Act, has decided to publicly condemn the NSA for abusing trust, even going so far as to call for more oversight. Sensenbrenner authored an op-ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel claiming to be in solidarity with Americans who were outraged over the NSA’s domestic spying program. and also claiming he never imagined the NSA would use the Patriot Act to spy on the American people.
After 9-11, with the country at risk and poised to enter its most intensive conflict since the Vietnam War, Congress extended the administration broader powers to help protect the American people. But the National Security Agency abused that trust.
It ignored restrictions painstakingly crafted by lawmakers and assumed a plenary authority never imagined by Congress. Worse, the NSA has cloaked its operations behind such a thick cloud of secrecy that, even if our trust was restored, Congress and the American people would lack the ability to verify it.
One is forced to wonder what exactly Congressman Sensenbrenner thought he was authorizing with the Patriot Act. But, in any case, Sensenbrenner castigated the NSA for “lying to the courts and Congress” while spying on American’s emails, phone calls, and social media activity.
Sensenbrenner then went on to say he would not support the bill by anti-civil liberties activist and Senator Diane Feinstein who seeks to legalize the illegal NSA activity, instead he would be taking a different course with the USA Freedom Act.
The USA Freedom Act restores Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act and requires greater oversight, transparency and accountability with respect to surveillance authorities. The bill also provides more safeguards against warrantless surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act and includes significant privacy and oversight provisions, creates a special advocate to focus on the protection of privacy rights before the FISA Court and requires more detailed public reporting.
The bill is designed to modify the Patriot Act to ensure what Congressman Sensenbrenner claims is a more benign interpretation or at least one with some limits. Though the question remains why, after 12 years, the Patriot Act is even still in effect.
The War on Terror became what critics believed it would become – an endless pointless war sustained politically through kickbacks from war profiteers. It has not made America any safer but it has cost Americans much of their freedom. Hopefully the turning of Congressman Sensenbrenner will be more than just a validation of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing. Hopefully it will represent the beginning of the end of endless war.
Photo by US House under public domain.