House Democrats are demanding that the government’s ability to spy on American citizens be immediately throttled in the wake of ongoing reports of the National Security Agency’s unConstitutional collection of thousands of electronic communications between innocent Americans.
Representatives Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), all members of the House Judiciary Committee, say there is compelling evidence that the executive branch is guilty of vast abuses of the surveillance power granted in the name of fighting terror.
“We are gravely concerned with recent revelations of the government’s misuse of its surveillance authorities. Earlier this week, we learned of an internal review that shows the NSA routinely oversteps its own privacy rules,” the trio said in a statement. “Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the government has the capability to reach nearly three-quarters of all internet traffic in the United States. Just moments ago, the government declassified court documents that show the NSA collected Americans’ electronic communication with no connection to terrorism—and did not learn of the problem for nearly three years. These revelations, and others over the past weeks, demand that we act immediately.”
The lawmakers are calling on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to re-evaluate the government’s ability to spy on Americans.
“Although we have repeatedly been assured that the government’s surveillance programs are subject to robust internal and external oversight, the burden remains on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to ensure that government acts in a manner that is consistent with our civil liberties,” the statement continued.
Specifically, the Democrats want Congress to take up legislation (H.R. 2399 a.k.a. “LIBERT-E Act”) to rein in the Administration’s spying powers granted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. They also want the White House to provide Congress with more information about the decisions passed down by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees NSA surveillance.
“Meaningful Congressional oversight of these matters also depends on reporting by the executive branch. We must take appropriate legislative action to ensure that the government may not take advantage of existing authorities,” the lawmakers said.
Nadler, Conyers and Scott also said that that would like to see more NSA oversight from outside the intelligence community.
“Given recent disclosures, we also believe it is imperative that we enact legislation to declassify certain reports, introduce a public advocate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and change the manner in which FISC judges are selected,” said the statement.
This week, Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.) announced that he will be introducing more legislation to take away some of the NSA’s surveillance powers because he believed that many lawmakers regret not supporting his narrowly defeated effort to do so last month. The lawmaker introduced several anti-NSA amendments in July, such as one to Defense Appropriations Bill that would have ended bulk phone record collection, but his proposals were defeated each time.
The onslaught of new damning headlines about the NSA, however, appears to have lawmakers on both sides of the aisle clamoring to limit the government’s surveillance power.