The Federal government doesn’t seem too keen on the idea of limiting its power to spy on American citizens and international neighbors. Perhaps that’s why Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) is looking outside the United States to seek an ally in the fight against unchecked government surveillance — on Monday he asked the European Parliament to help the United States find a balance between liberty and security.
In a prepared address to the Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee, Sensenbrenner asked members to “to work pragmatically with the United States to continue balanced efforts to protect our nations.”
The lawmaker, who was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when the Patriot Act was passed, said he is convinced by recent revelations about the extent of National Security Agency spying that it is time to reign in the agency.
The lawmaker said: “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 the law.
“President Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verify.” After 9-11, with America at risk and poised to enter its most intensive conflict since the Vietnam War, Congress extended the executive branch broader powers to protect the American people. But the NSA abused that trust.
“It ignored restrictions painstakingly crafted by lawmakers and assumed a plenary authority we never imagined. 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.”
Sensenbrenner is the author of the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act” — or the USA Freedom Act.
The lawmaker told members of Parliament that his bill would end the NSA’s bulk data collection programs, as well as spying on foreign leaders. NSA spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which President Barack Obama claimed to be unaware of, enraged much of Europe.
“If you’ll forgive an old Republican one partisan quip,” Sensenbrenner said, “there is no better argument for reform than when surveillance abuses occur unbeknownst to the one man authorized to allow them.”