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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 ...


The FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013

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:

S.1215

thomas.loc.gov

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.

COSPONSORS(10)

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:

S.1215

fas.org

[Congressional Record Volume 159, Number 91 (Monday, June 24, 2013)]
[Senate]
[Pages S5019-S5027]


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 ...



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Comment Preferences

  •  Protecting privacy is a good objective. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, Einsteinia

    Words do matter. Protection is necessary when there is a threat, but it is an amorphous action -- well suited to another amorphouse entity. Protecting a person is different, especially since it involves some sort of restraint, as does "security."
    Actions need to be appropriate to the thing acted upon, but not defined by the object.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Sat Aug 03, 2013 at 04:53:10 PM PDT

  •  Seems to me that creating a haystack makes the (13+ / 0-)

    Needle harder to find.

    "Small Businesses Don't Build Levees" - Melissa Harris Perry

    by justmy2 on Sat Aug 03, 2013 at 04:54:00 PM PDT

  •  This is excellent! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, Einsteinia

    At least one Republican and at least one Blue Dog in that list (and one of my Senators!). Just from a political standpoint that's fantastic!
    And moving the sunsets up into 2015 to coincide with the expiration of the PATRIOT ACT, is also excellent.
    Let's see a massive overhaul of our security apparatus, before the next president.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Sat Aug 03, 2013 at 04:57:28 PM PDT

  •  The 215 vs 702, Which is which? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NonnyO, Eric Nelson, JML9999, LakeSuperior

    and Who is who?

    Electronic Surveillance Law 101

    from pogo.org -- June 26, 2013

    [...]
    Section 215 (codified at 50 U.S.C. § 1861, a part of FISA) allows the FBI to collect “any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items)”—broad language that can be read to include almost anything. Indeed, FISC has apparently defined the relevant tangible things to include a phone company’s complete call database.
    [...]

    Communications collected from U.S. persons must not derive solely from First Amendment activities—for example, collection because the FBI doesn’t like the website you visit or the books you check out of the library—but can derive in part from such actions. In addition, anyone who receives a Section 215 order to turn over tangible things to the government is prohibited from disclosing the warrant or the details of the requested records. Under fairly weak congressional oversight requirements, the Attorney General submits an annual report to Congress detailing the number of requests made, granted, modified, and denied.

    FISC cites Section 215 as providing the legal authorization for the collection of telephone metadata. According to the leaked documents, FISC ordered Verizon, pursuant to Section 215, to hand over information related to both communications “between the United States and abroad,” and “wholly within the United States (including local telephone calls).” Evidence suggests that the government has demanded similar information from other telecommunications giants on orders renewed every three months.
    [...]

    Section 702 of Title VII (codified in 2008 at 50 U.S.C. § 1881a) allows the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to jointly authorize a surveillance program targeting persons “reasonably believed to be located outside the United States” for up to one year. The surveillance must collect “foreign intelligence,” defined roughly as information related to national defense, foreign affairs, or the ability to protect against actual or potential attacks, international terrorism, or clandestine intelligence activities.

    A Section 702 program must not “intentionally” target U.S. persons, but does not protect communications to and from U.S. persons inadvertently caught up in the surveillance program. In applying for FISC authorization, the government must certify targeting and minimization procedures that will reduce the likelihood of surveilling U.S. persons. As the Constitution Project points out, however, the government does not need to identify particular targets or demonstrate probable cause.
    [...]

  •  The price is too high in both (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NonnyO, JML9999

    dollars and freedom.

    Thank goodness Edward Snowden blew the whistle on this over-reach.

    Because despite Obama saying that the 3 branches (the court, the Congress and him) knew about it:

    Court:  Oh, yes, well a secret court, with secret laws, with secret verdicts, secret prisoners.

    Congress:  Sounds to me like most, if not all, of Congress was quite surprised by all of these programs and the fact that no warrant is needed and its not only meta-data

    Obama:  Maybe he did know and maybe this is the jobs program he was talking about.

    Separation of Church and State AND Corporation

    by Einsteinia on Sat Aug 03, 2013 at 06:01:52 PM PDT

  •  Oh, dear Senator Leahy... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, JML9999

    We knew that before that idiotic illegal and unconstitutional Patriot Act was passed!

    I'll support this and urge my senators to sign on, but by far the BETTER route would be to simply REPEAL THE ENTIRE PATRIOT ACT and the amendments to the point that laws mean what they did before that monstrosity that took away our rights was passed.

    There was NO way the Patriot Act, AUMF, MCA '06 (we still need this repealed; we officially need habeas corpus back!!!), FISA fiasco '08, or MCA '09 were legal or constitutional.  Those of us with an IQ above a rock have always known that.

    It's up to you in Congress to remedy this situation and repeal all the unconstitutional laws passed between 12 December 2000 and the present..., and then don't pass any more unconstitutional and illegal laws...!!!

    THINK before you act!!!

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Sat Aug 03, 2013 at 06:30:39 PM PDT

  •  These programs are costing a fortune (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, sc kitty, xxdr zombiexx

    Not only are they not producing meaningful intel ie Zizzi

    They keep missing lone Wolves. Underwear Bomber, Time Square and now the Flying Tsarnaev Brothers...

    The more rabid members of the GOP are trying to kill food stamps.

    Fubar'd priorities DC.......

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Sat Aug 03, 2013 at 06:40:54 PM PDT

  •  What is the relationship between what Leahy (0+ / 0-)

    and colleagues are doing with this bill and what Senator Franken is doing with his surveillance transparency bill?

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