NSA

By Dustin Volz
October 10, 2013

One of the more serious congressional threats to the National Security Agency’s controversial surveillance programs could come from one of the unlikeliest of sources: a primary sponsor of the Patriot Act.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., criticized the Obama administration this week for its using parts of the Patriot Act to justify the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ email and phone data and said he plans to introduce legislation to limit such programs.

“The NSA has gone far beyond the intent of the Patriot Act, particularly in the accumulation and storage of metadata,” Sensenbrenner said. “Had Congress known that the Patriot Act had been used to collect metadata, the bill would have never been passed.”

Sensenbrenner’s bill, dubbed the Freedom Act, still has “a couple of bugs” to hammer out, he said. But Sensenbrenner’s vision for the bill is clear: He wants to redefine Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which he believes has been misinterpreted by the Obama administration, to create a clear, uniform standard for lawful surveillance by the intelligence community that would effectively eliminate the NSA’s metadata collection program.

The bill will also seek to make the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court more transparent by requiring it disclose certain decisions and limit Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 2008 provision that allows government to collect Internet communications from people believed to be living outside the United States.

“There is a legitimate reason for the intelligence community to collect” some personal records of certain individuals, Sensenbrenner said. “The question is whether we should start with that identified person and move out from there or grab everything and move inward.”

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