In case you missed it, Senator Leahy, and others, took a stand for the Constitution last week. On the floor of the Senate, against unchecked and seemingly unaccountable Government Surveillance Programs:
Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Oversight Hearing On Government Surveillance Programs
enewspf.com -- 31 Jul 2013
Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
Hearing on “Strengthening Privacy Rights and National Security:
Oversight of FISA Surveillance Programs
July 31, 2013
Senator Patrick Leahy:[...]
Just recently, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that he provided false testimony about the NSA surveillance programs during a Senate hearing in March, and his office had to remove a fact sheet from its website after concerns were raised about its accuracy. I appreciate that it is difficult to talk about classified programs in public settings, but the American people expect and deserve honest answers.
It also has been far too difficult to get a straight answer about the effectiveness of the Section 215 phone records program. Whether this program is a critical national security tool is a key question for Congress as we consider possible changes to the law. Some supporters of this program have repeatedly conflated the efficacy of the Section 215 bulk metadata collection program with that of Section 702 of FISA. I do not think this is a coincidence, and it needs to stop. The patience and trust of the American people is starting to wear thin.
I asked General Alexander about the effectiveness of the Section 215 phone records program at an Appropriations Committee hearing last month, and he agreed to provide a classified list of terrorist events that Section 215 helped to prevent. I have reviewed that list. Although I agree that it speaks to the value of the overseas content collection implemented under Section 702, it does not do the same with for Section 215. The list simply does not reflect dozens or even several terrorist plots that Section 215 helped thwart or prevent -- let alone 54, as some have suggested.
These facts matter. This bulk collection program has massive privacy implications. The phone records of all of us in this room reside in an NSA database. I have said repeatedly that just because we have the ability to collect huge amounts of data does not mean that we should be doing so. In fact, it has been reported that the bulk collection of Internet metadata was shut down because it failed to produce meaningful intelligence. We need to take an equally close look at the phone records program. If this program is not effective, it must end. And so far, I am not convinced by what I have seen.
And Senator Leahy (+ 10 Co-Sponsors) plan to do something to put the brakes on the NSA overreaching charade ... they think the invasion of our privacy, without probable cause, has gone on long enough ...
leahy.senate.gov -- June 26, 2013
[...] The FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 [S.1215] will improve the privacy protections and accountability provisions associated with these authorities, and also strengthen oversight and transparency with regard to other provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Summarized below are some of the highlights of the bill’s provisions:
New and Shorter Sunset Provisions to Ensure Proper Oversight
-- Shortens the sunset for the FISA Amendments Act from December 2017 to June 2015. The June 2015 sunset would align with expiring USA PATRIOT Act provisions, and enable Congress to address these FISA provisions all at once, instead of in a piecemeal fashion.
-- Adds new June 2015 sunsets on statutes authorizing use of National Security Letters (NSLs).
Higher Standards for PATRIOT Act Surveillance Authorities
-- Elevates the threshold standard for obtaining records through Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act by requiring the government to show relevance to an authorized investigation and a link to one of three categories of a foreign agent, power, or group.
Increased Transparency and Public Reporting
-- Expands public reporting on the use of National Security Letters and authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including an unclassified report on the impact of the use of these authorities on the privacy of United States persons.
Increased Judicial Review and Inspector General Oversight
-- Requires Inspector General audits on the use of Section 215 orders, NSLs, and other surveillance authorities under the USA PATRIOT Act.
-- Provides for a comprehensive review of FISA Amendments Act (Section 702) surveillance by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IC IG).
Well it's about time! May this charade of "suspect us, to protect us, for our own good," actually sunset tomorrow. That would not be soon enough.
Bin Laden is dead; Al Qaeda is decimated -- Yet everyone in America is still on the NSA Must-Surveil List. For God's knows WHAT legitimate reasons?
The good Senators are "not convinced" those legitimate reasons still exist. It's not like the NSA has really been honest with them, now has it?
'Just because something can be done -- doesn't mean it should be done.'
Just because they can spy on citizens -- doesn't mean that makes us all automatic suspects, and devoid of our Constitutional rights. Or at least it shouldn't mean that -- NOT in the United States of America (once known as a Constitutional Republic governed by the will of the People; not by the whims of the enabled.)
If Senator Leahy et. al. get their Senatorial way, it won't be that way for much longer ... Perhaps this age of "undocumented fear-mongering" -- of arbitrary color-coded
Threat Panic Levels -- may actually be drawing to an end? That day cannot come soon enough.
And about those NSA accountability Co-sponsors, who's efforts you may want to follow and support, as your virtual voice will allow:
Latest Title: FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013
Sponsor: Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] (introduced 6/24/2013) Cosponsors (10)
Latest Major Action: 6/24/2013 Referred to Senate committee.
Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Sen Begich, Mark [AK] - 6/25/2013
Sen Blumenthal, Richard [CT] - 6/24/2013
Sen Coons, Christopher A. [DE] - 7/30/2013
Sen Heinrich, Martin [NM] - 7/24/2013
Sen Lee, Mike [UT] - 6/24/2013
Sen Merkley, Jeff [OR] - 6/25/2013
Sen Tester, Jon [MT] - 6/24/2013
Sen Udall, Mark [CO] - 6/24/2013
Sen Udall, Tom [NM] - 7/8/2013
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] - 6/24/2013
Here's more of the "official record" statements, made by Statesman Leahy, as he recently introduced this Constrain the Patriot Act Bill into the Congressional Record, and into the Senate's Must-do To-do List:
[Congressional Record Volume 159, Number 91 (Monday, June 24, 2013)]
STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
By Mr. LEAHY (for himself, Mr. Lee, Mr. Udall of Colorado, Mr. Wyden, Mr. Blumenthal, and Mr. Tester):
S. 1215. A bill to strengthen privacy protections, accountability, and oversight related to domestic surveillance conducted pursuant to the USA PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978; to the Committee on the Judiciary. [...]
Senator Patrick Leahy:I have long been troubled by the expansive nature and scope of the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act. There is not enough oversight and ability for Americans to know what their government is doing and be able to get into the debate of whether they want their government to do this. That is why I have consistently fought to include strong protections for the privacy rights and civil liberties of American citizens, as well as sunsets to help ensure proper congressional oversight. Nothing focuses oversight like knowing a law is about to come to an end. So I will introduce at the end of my remarks, along with a bipartisan group of Senators, the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013.
In fact, those of us who are introducing this legislation go across the political spectrum. This is not a partisan issue -- this is an American issue. This is an issue about wanting to know what our government is doing and why. As Americans, we have the right to know what our government does and why.
This measure will narrow the scope of section 215 orders by requiring the government to show both relevance to an authorized investigation and a link to a foreign group or power.
The bill also adds more meaningful judicial review of section 215 orders but strikes the one-year waiting period before a recipient can challenge a nondisclosure order for section 215 orders. Now the order comes in and you are told you can't talk about it. No matter whether it damages your business, your relations, or people you are supposed to protect, you can't talk about it for one year. That is a broad generalization of what the nondisclosure orders are. I think those orders should be changed. I think when we have these kinds of "gag orders" on Americans, you are going into a very dangerous area.
Moreover, this measure would require court review of minimization procedures when information concerning a U.S. person is acquired, retained, or disseminated pursuant to a section 215 order. This is a commonsense oversight requirement already required for other FISA authorities such as wiretaps, physical searches, pen register and trap and trace devices.
As I likened it before, we all understand that if a law enforcement agency gets a search warrant to go into your home and search for things, you usually know about it and are able to question that authority. Now if they are collecting things electronically, you don't know about it, you don't know what this is doing to your reputation, to your work, or anything else. We have to have more accountability.
Bravo, Senator Leahy and your genuinely patriotic Co-sponsors. Thank you for speaking out for American Citizens and our Constitutional Rights -- when the easier path may be just to "go along to get along" ... to not challenge the 9-11 Preemptive Status Quo -- "to not make any waves," regarding the unaccountable powers that be ...
But, instead you have chosen to exert your Constitutional Authority, in an attempt to bring the slippery-slope battle between Liberty vs Security, back into some sort of citizen-sensible balance. Bravo!
Perhaps there is still hope of retaining a form of Government that is indeed, "of, by and for the People," afterall ...
Carry on and good fortune, in your efforts; the American People -- the patriots and the fearful -- will be watching ...