The author of the PATRIOT Act, who now wants to rein in the bill, says today’s court ruling that mass collection of phone data is illegal vindicates his position.
The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today ruled that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone metadata exceeds the surveillance powers approved by Congress. The ruling didn’t stop the program altogether but directed Congress to go back and draw the boundaries.
That was music to the ears of lawmakers who have been hotly opposed to the mass data collection.
“Today’s court decision reaffirms what I’ve been saying since the Snowden leaks came to light. Congress never intended Section 215 to allow bulk collection,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said. “This program is illegal and based on a blatant misinterpretation of the law.”
“It’s time for Congress to pass the USA FREEDOM Act in order to protect both civil liberties and national security with legally authorized surveillance,” he added, referencing the bipartisan PATRIOT Act reform legislation.
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), who has co-sponsored the Senate version of the FREEDOM Act with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), said “the dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records is unnecessary and ineffective, and now a federal appellate court has found that the program is illegal.”
“Congress should not reauthorize a bulk collection program that the court has found to violate the law. We will not consent to any extension of this program,” Leahy added. Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act has to be reauthorized by June.
“The House is poised to pass the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 next week, and the Senate should do the same. We urge the Majority Leader to bring the USA FREEDOM Act up for a vote next week after the House passes it.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) issued a joint statement asking the White House to step in and end the NSA program now.
“This is a huge step for individual Americans’ rights,” Wyden said. “This dragnet surveillance program violates the law and tramples on Americans’ privacy rights without making our country any safer. It is long past time for it to end.”
“Now that this program is finally being examined in the sunlight, the executive branch’s claims about its legality and effectiveness are crumbling,” he added. “The president should end mass surveillance immediately. If not, Congress needs to finish the job and finally end this dragnet.”
Wyden helped out Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) with his 13-hour 2013 filibuster protesting drone use.
Paul called the court ruling today “a monumental decision for all lovers of liberty.”
“I commend the federal courts for upholding our Constitution and protecting our Fourth Amendment rights. While this is a step in the right direction, it is now up to the Supreme Court to strike down the NSA’s illegal spying program,” he said.
The senator and 2016 presidential hopeful sued the Obama administration in 2014 over the bulk collection of Americans’ data.
“It is the duty of elected officials to protect the rights of all Americans, and Congress should immediately repeal the PATRIOT Act provisions and pass my Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act,” Paul added. “I will continue to fight to prevent the Washington machine from illegally seizing any American’s personal communication.”
Another presidential hopeful, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), said Americans can be kept safe “without living in an Orwellian world where the government and private corporations know every telephone call that we make, every website we visit, everyplace we go.”