“A Radical Revamp of the Patriot Act” begins in U.S. Senate and House

In the last few days, it’s as if the monster has started to devour itself, with the White House and U.S. intelligence agencies accusing each other of lying. I googled “did Obama know if Merkel’s phone was tapped?” Here’s the start of a long list.

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Here’s to the day when we’re all telepathic, no longer need language, and won’t be able to lie. Imagine our world then!

Legislation Unveiled to Bar NSA’s Bulk Phone Metadata Collection

October 29, 2013



Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com

Lawmakers proposed legislation today that would effectively end the NSA’s bulk phone metadata collection program.

The legislation has support from Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate, and from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and National Rifle Association. But the USA FREEDOM Act’s passage into law remains uncertain.

“It is time for serious and meaningful reforms so we can restore confidence in our intelligence community,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and one of the bill’s chief sponsors.

Today’s proposal is a radical revamp of the Patriot Act, legislation passed in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. In 2006, lawmakers amended the act to allow the bulk collection program under the disguise of Section 215 of the Patriot Act — which allows the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to authorize broad warrants for most any type of “tangible” records, including those held by banks, doctors and phone companies.

Under the Patriot Act, the government only needs to show that the information is “relevant” to an authorized investigation. No connection to a terrorist or spy is required. That provision has been interpreted to allow for the bulk collection of all call records in and out of the United States.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) the main sponsor of the Patriot Act, said that such an interpretation was an abuse of the law. Today’s proposal, he said, seeks to alter that interpretation. Sensenbrenner said he never thought every telephone call would become “relevant” to an investigation.

“Somewhere along the way, the balance between security and privacy was lost,” said Sensenbrenner, another co-sponsor of the sweeping package.

The telephone snooping first came to public light in June when NSA leaker Edward Snowden provided the Guardian newspaper with a classified court opinion requiring Verizon to provide the NSA the phone numbers of both parties involved in all calls, the international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) number for mobile callers, calling card numbers used in the call, and the time and duration of the calls. The government confirmed the authenticity of the document, and lawmakers have subsequently said other secret orders involve the nation’s carriers in a program that began in 2006.

The ACLU, which is suing the President Barack Obama administration amid claims the collection program is unconstitutional, said the proposal is “real spying reform.”

Today’s measure, officially called the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act” has 16 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate and 70 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House. It has been met with stiff opposition from the White House, which has said the collection program has helped solve dozens of terror plots at home and abroad.

A similar bill was proposed in July in the House, and was narrowly defeated 205-217.

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