Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy Vows To Limit Government Surveillance

Senate Judiciary Committee holds a Hearing on Immigration Reform in Washington

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, vowed Tuesday to push bipartisan legislation to limit the surveillance power of the National Security Agency.

Leahy said that he is working with Representative James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), who authored the Patriot Act, and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) to re-evaluate what the lawmakers see as outdated surveillance rules that are easily abused in today’s technologically driven world.

“I am convinced that the system set up in the 1970s to regulate the surveillance capabilities of our intelligence community is no longer working,” Leahy said during a speech at Georgetown University Law Center. “We have to recalibrate.”

The surveillance overhaul will coincide with a separate bill Leahy already introduced to limit the NSA’s ability to collect phone data in bulk.

“In my view — and I’ve discussed this with the White House — the Section 215 bulk collection of Americans’ phone records must end,” Leahy said. “The government has not made its case that this is an effective counterterrorism tool, especially in light of the intrusion on Americans’ privacy rights.”

Earlier this month, newly declassified documents revealed that even NSA officials lacked an understanding of the scope of the privacy intrusions carried out by the government. The information came from documents detailing how a judge scolded the NSA in 2009 for violating its own procedures and lying to intelligence courts designed to safeguard some shred of American privacy.

“The government has compounded its noncompliance with the court’s orders by repeatedly submitting inaccurate descriptions of the alert list process” to the court, Judge Reggie B. Walton wrote in a 2009 ruling. “It has finally come to light that the F.I.S.C.’s authorizations of this vast collection program have been premised on a flawed depiction of how the N.S.A. uses” the data.

This, Leahy concedes, is indicative of a major malfunction in the Nation’s massive surveillance apparatus.

“When senior officials at the NSA do not themselves understand the technical boundaries of the programs they manage, or when they give inaccurate explanations to the court — and they have — how do we expect the court to fulfill its role? It can’t be done,” Leahy said.

According to the lawmaker, Congress should rapidly consider “structural changes” to how the surveillance courts operate and make it easier inspectors general to conduct oversight.

“We must find a way to discuss publicly the outer bounds of government authority to surveil Americans,” he said. “Congress was able to do that in the 1970s when it developed FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act], and I am confident we can do it again.”

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • dan

    yes, a good idea to update every forty years or so…let’s see ….we were using rotary dial phones and had just gotten off the party-line back then,right ?

  • Freespirit

    “Limit”??? Wow that will make us free won’t it.I don’t think I could handle all that freedom :-)

  • Blank Reg

    He’s just another one of those good government theorists that thinks if you just pass the “right” law, and get the “right” people into office, everything will be fine. But we have a $4Trillion budget, and Pelosi can’t POSSIBLY find any fat to trim. Defunding NSA entirely will solve the problem a lot more easily than trying to nail things down with yet more complex “laws”.

    • Warrior

      A little “tweak” here and a little “calibrate” there and voila. It is ALIVE!

  • rivahmitch

    Another effing liar. Ignore it, resist it and hopefully it will die.

  • Carlos

    Leahy would like to eliminate any agency that had the power to investigate his undercover operations, Remember the Church committee back in the Seventies, they practically destroyed our ability to infiltrate foreign Governments and subversive groups in this country. This guy is a subversive Bolshevik.
    All that needs to be done is prosecute the people who abused their power by spying on the American people, this would lead to the White House, so that;s why Leahy wants to change the law.

  • Michael Shreve

    I don’t BELIEVE anyone in government WANTS to limit surveillance of WE THE PEOPLE, particularly a Democrat, liberal, progressive, communist.