On Veteran’s Day, US House representative Jim Sesenbrenner was in Brussels, Belgium, testifying before the European Parliament at the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs about the ongoing abuse of the bill he wrote, the Patriot Act. There, he unveiled his true feelings, protesting the NSA’s mass spying, saying James Clapper should be terminated and put on trial, and that Dianne Feinstein’s Fisa Improvements Act is a “scary” lapse of judgment since it allows the government to, without a warrant, search through data collected by the NSA.
Sesenbrenner said in his speech (PDF) to the EU parliamentarians that he never thought the Patriot Act would be used against the public so intrusively.
“Congress knew the country needed new tools and broader authorities to combat those who meant to harm us, but we never intended to allow the National Security Agency to peer indiscriminately into the lives of innocent people all over the world.”
Sesenbrenner defended the Patriot Act for its ability to foil terrorist schemes. However, he went on to state that those in power have abused the law, infringing on the rights of the public; the checks and balances are out of balance.
“I firmly believe the Patriot Act saved lives by strengthening the ability of intelligence agencies to track and stop potential terrorists, but in the past few years, the NSA has weakened, misconstrued and ignored the civil liberty protections we drafted into law.”
“Worse, the NSA has cloaked its operations behind such a thick cloud of secrecy that, even if the NSA promised reforms, we would lack the ability to verify them.”
To combat such offenses, Sesenbrenner paired with Senator Patrick Leahy, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in introducing the Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eaves dropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act (USA FREEDOM Act).
“The USA FREEDOM Act would end the NSA’s bulk collection of data under the Patriot Act whether it pertains to Americans or foreigners. The US Government would still be able to follow leads and obtain data when it has a reasonable suspicion that someone is connected to terrorism, but it would no longer be able to collect data indiscriminately in bulk from innocent people.”
Sesenbrenner had “worked under strict time constraints” when penning the Patriot Act and getting it passed. He said that the NSA “ignored restrictions painstakingly crafted by lawmakers and assumed a plenary authority we never imagined.”